While fighting has been limited in Iraqi Kurdistan so far, the losses continue to pile up for the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, as they continue to retreat in the face of an aggressive offensive by the Iraqi military into contested parts of Kurdish territory.
On Monday, this saw Iraq seizing Kirkuk with barely a shot fired. Tuesday, Iraq seized more oil fields near Kirkuk, and also the important towns of Khanaqin and Sinjar. There were reports of some exchanges of artillery fire, and potentially as many as 11 killed.
The territory seized includes areas with Kurdish and Yazidi populations, but which are outside of the official Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) area. It’s not clear yet if Iraq’s offensive, intended to stop Kurdish secession, will also include a push into KRG territory.
Iraqi Prime Minister Hayder Abadi seems to believe that the point has already been proven, declaring last month’s referendum “finished and has become a thing of the past.” 92% of Kurds voted in favor of declaring independence from Iraq, and that’s an ambition that’s not likely to disappear just because of a single military push.
Kurdish President Massoud Barzani maintains that the referendum “won’t be in vain,” though it isn’t clear what their next move will be, having lost territory, and seeing their airports and border crossings closed.