In a statement today after his meeting with Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani, Iraqi Prime Minister Hayder Abadi warned that Iraqi Kurdish forces must not use the upcoming invasion of Mosul as an opportunity to expand the territory of their autonomous region further into the Nineveh Province.
The territory of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has grown significantly during the ISIS war, as their paramilitary forces, the Peshmerga, seized the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and the surrounding area early in the war, and announced they were incorporating it permanently into Kurdistan.
This was by far the single biggest gain of the war for the KRG, but not the only one, as in recent weeks, Peshmerga offensives around Mosul have seen them capture considerable territory, particularly north of the city, and announce that it too is being effectively annexed into the KRG’s region.
Abadi insisted the goal of the Mosul battle was to “free the citizens” and not to expand territorial holdings, but it is believed that one of the major reasons Iraq has been pushing so desperately toward Mosul is to try to capture a foothold of their own in the area before the Kurds take everything.
In many ways this is drawing up the battlelines for a post-ISIS war within Iraq, as the Barzani government has often talked of secession from Iraq after the war is over, and appears intent on taking as much land as possible on their way out the door.