Kurdistan warns of attack from pro-Iraqi militias, asks U.N. to intervene

Oct. 13 (UPI) — Iraqi military forces issued threats and a demand that Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers withdraw from areas around the city of Kirkuk, a Kurdish commander said.

The comments came from senior commander Shiekh Jaafar on Thursday after a meeting of high-ranking leaders of the Peshmerga, the Kurdish military force. Jaafar said that Iraqi military leaders ordered the Peshmerga, which has joined the Iraqi army and other factions to fight against Islamic State forces, to withdraw from the city. He added that the Iraqis, which include the Hashd al-Shaabi, an group of militias allied with the Iraqi government against Islamic State forces, are preparing to make advances into Kurdish-controlled areas that include oil wells and Kirkuk’s airport.

The Kurdistan Regional Government is taking the demands so seriously that Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani issued a statement Friday asking the United Nations, the United States and others to “urgently intervene to prevent a new war in the region.”

The Iraqis, Jaafar said, ordered the Peshmerga to return to area behind the Green Line, an informal border that separated Kurdish and Iraqi forces prior to the involvement of the United States in 2003.

Kurdistan’s Security Council said on Friday that Peshmerga forces must be “in [the] highest state of readiness to defend people and land of Kurdistan and retaliate against all threats [and] attacks.”

It added that Iraqi and Hashd al-Shaabi forces were preparing to attack Kurdistani positions with “tanks, artillery, Humvees and mortars.”

The tension between the Iraqi troops and those of Kurdish-controlled Iraq began after Kurdistani voters overwhelmingly chose to support the region’s independence from Iraq in a Sept. 25 referendum.

“All standing issues should be dealt with though negotiations and peaceful means,” Barzani said. “Our calls for dialogue and negotiations must not be answered with threats, amassing forces and preparations for war.”

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