In the wake of last summer’s ISIS takeover of Mosul, Kurdish forces moved south and seized the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. The oil rich city has been a major goal for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) from the beginning.
The Kurds have historical claims to the city, and said during the takeover they’d never again cede it. Since then, their perimeter around the city continues to grow, and now is over 30 miles.
Iraqi officials have suggested they don’t really recognize the Kurdish claims on Kirkuk, but they’ve mostly sought to avoid the question over the simple fact that they’re struggling enough with ISIS without antagonizing the Kurdish Peshmerga forces as well.
Most recently, it’s seemed the Peshmerga and Iraq’s military are fighting two separate wars against ISIS, and the Peshmerga is receiving US backing on its own offensives, which mostly have centered around Kirkuk and Mount Sinjar. Though the US envisions an eventual reunification of Iraq, it seems increasingly probable that Kurdish independence is a de facto reality, and will before long also be a de jure reality.
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