Experts have been arguing that with the Islamic State out of the scene in Syria and Iraq, other risky conflicts may escalate in the area. Recently, one of those conflicts erupted in northern Iraq, which has turned into a battleground for two of the U.S.’ closest allies in the region.
Moreover, the Iranian militia joined the conflict just days after President Donald Trump condemned Iran’s “destabilizing” acts in the Middle East, which is one of the reasons he wants to decertify the Iran nuclear deal. But any rash moves from the U.S. administration could spur the very activities the President has condemned.
The latest conflict happened in the area of the city of Kirkuk, a city populated by Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen and located near rich oil fields in northern Iraq. Kurds had had the control of the city since 2014, when the Islamic State banished Iraq’s national army from the area.
On Monday, Iraqi troops were able to occupy a military base, critical infrastructure, and an oil field near Kirkuk. Local population was worried about considerable bloodshed, and several Kurdish soldiers lost their lives while many others were injured.
More Conflicts May Emerge
However, this may be only the beginning if the two sides fighting in the area don’t reach a compromise. If Kurdish forces and Iraq don’t de-escalate, the U.S. will have to make a tough choice since they’re both its allies.
American officials couldn’t help but wonder how fast the relationships in the area soured. A few months ago, Pentagon announced that the cooperation between Bagdad and the Kurds was “unprecedented”. At the time, U.S. military officials praised the Kurdish regional government for its involvement in countering ISIS’ operations.
On Sept. 25, there was the independence referendum in which 93 percent of Kurds voted to separate from Iraq. The referendum did not have the nod of Iraq, the U.S., or the international community. Western powers have opposed the referendum for undercutting Iraq’s statehood.
But Iran benefited the most since the move could mean the unity of its Kurdish community, who are closely aligned with Iraq, could soon be undermined too. The recent conflict also places the U.S. in an awkward position since it must choose between the Iraqi government and Kurds.
Image Source: media.defense.gov
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