Developing, managing, and sharing knowledge on natural resources, conflict, and peacebuilding
17 October 2017 | Ellen R. Wald
One month after the KRG voted in favor of a referendum to seek independence from Iraq, Baghdad finally responded. In the early morning hours of October 16, Iraqi forces engaged Kurdish troops in Taza Khurmatu, a city just south of Kirkuk. All evidence points to Iraqi and Iranian forces focusing their attacks on Kurdish forces to win back local oil fields. The fate of this oil may be the impetus for Arab and U.S. interests to finally coincide with Kurdish needs.
Iraqi forces approached with the intention of entering Kirkuk to take over the K1 airbase and the oil fields in the region. Kirkuk is the source of approximately 10% of Iraq’s oil. Under control of the KRG, the oil is currently exported via the Ceyhan pipeline to a Turkish port on the Mediterranean.
The Iraqi forces in question are marching under the umbrella of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), or Al-Hash Al Sha’abi in Arabic. This force is actually an umbrella organization for at least 40 different militia groups that are, according to report by the Carnegie Middle East Center, largely loyal to one of three Shi’a clerics. One of these clerics is the Supreme Jurisprudent of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is essentially the political and religious ruler of Iran.