Since early in the ISIS war, there has been a suspicion that its resolution within Iraq is just going to lead into yet another war, this time between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The tensions between those sides are already rising even as the fighting over ISIS’ largest city rages.
Iraq has never been entirely comfortable with autonomous, oil-rich Kurdistan, and the KRG leadership has made public their secessionist ambitions, with their leaders saying that outright independence will be discussed as soon as the ISIS fight is over. Yet the biggest source of tension right now is territory.
On paper, KRG territory consists of an area in northern and northeastern Iraq. Yet during the ISIS war, when Iraqi troops were in full retreat, the Kurdish Peshmerga entered the oil rich city of Kirkuk, and declared it part of KRG territory.
More and more territory has changed hands since then, with the Peshmerga engaged in a lot of fighting with ISIS along their frontier, seizing a lot of towns and villages. During the invasion of Mosul, Peshmerga forces approached the city from the north, seizing more territory before stopping and beginning to erect a barrier for their “new border.”
In this newly seized territory, the Peshmerga are accused of demolishing Arab homes to try to secure a Kurdish majority, and between KRG officials talking about secession and promising to keep all the territory the Peshmerga has captured, Iraq isn’t so much recovering this territory from ISIS as losing it even further.
Prime Minister Hayder Abadi was more public today in demanding that the Kurds promise to return all the territory they’ve captured during the ISIS war as soon as that war is finished, but all signs are that the KRG is still operating under the intention of keeping it all.