Home inContext Kurdish Militias Push into Kirkuk

Kurdish Militias Push into Kirkuk

Yael Rein

Days after seizing Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, insurgents tied to al-Qaeda seized Tikrit, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein on Wednesday. As the Iraqi Army fled its posts, the Kurdish Peshmerga also exploited the chaos to secure control of the northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk on Thursday.

Both the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Kurdistan Communities Union have pledged to prevent the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from expanding its forces into northern regions. Unlike the Iraqi national army, the Kurdish forces are more disciplined, loyal to their leaders, and have mobilized to stop the threatening spread of ISIS from western Iraq and Syria.

Members of the Kurdish security forces stand at a checkpoint during an intensive security deployment on the outskirts of Kirkuk. (Photo: Reuters)

Kurdish leaders have long dreamed of taking Kirkuk, a city located right outside of its autonomous region and is regarded as the Kurds’ historical capital. Since 2003, Iraqi Kurds have been given a fixed percentage of the country’s total oil revenue. However with full control of Kirkuk and the area’s huge hydrocarbon reserves, the Kurds could keep the city’s oil profits for themselves, further eroding the legitimacy of Iraq’s Shiite led central government.

Ultimately, the recent instability highlights long standing ethnic conflict and the inability of Iraq’s military to properly secure the country’s borders from infiltrating terrorists. Militants are now in control of more parts of Iraq, declaring new rules of conduct and ordering all residents to attend mosques as well as pray five times a day. ISIS has additionally banned all forms of alcohol and smoking and have required women to dress in concealing clothing. Local Iraqis found disobeying the Islamists in ISIS controlled areas in Syria are sentenced to death by public execution.