Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki today demanded that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) order the withdrawal of thousands of Peshmerga soldiers from the northern city of Kirkuk, saying the troops occupied the city without central government permission.
The Peshmerga entered the city nominally to protect its ethnic Kurdish population from the growing public protests, but the addition of 12,000 Kurdish soldiers to the city, which lies outside of Kurdistan’s direct control, has also concerned the local Arab population.
This is doubly true because the KRG has stated openly that it intends to eventually annex Kirkuk into its region, a major oil source in northern Iraq. The attempts to expand their territory have sparked tensions with the Sunni Arab and Turkomen population in the region.
Though the Maliki regime downplayed the seriousness of the row, and insisted a deal was in place for the removal, Kurdish officials ruled out removing the troops from Kirkuk any time soon, insisting it would continue until the “stability” returns.