Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi warned about the prospect of a civil war Monday if Kurdish leaders formalize the city of Kirkuk as theirs and attempt to solidify a Kurdish state, rather than engaging in talks over independence.
Allawi told The Associated Press in an interview that Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani and all other parties to the dispute over Kurdish independence should negotiate over Kirkuk, a Kurdish-administered city rich in resources like oil. Otherwise, there’s a risk of civil war breaking out.
For Allawi, the Kurds claiming Kirkuk for Kurdistan would essentially constitute “foreign occupation” and could lead to “violent conflict,” which is a real possibility following the resounding success of the independence referendum two weeks ago. The referendum went ahead despite strenuous objections from Iraq, Iran, Turkey and even the United States. Part of that independence referendum is a claim to Kirkuk, which Iraq depends on for oil revenue.
Given that Iraqi forces have recently beaten the Islamic State out of Hawija, an area just south of Kirkuk, the prospect of the Iraqi military moving in on Kirkuk is very real, which is why Allawi is urging all sides to restrain themselves.
“The government claims they control the Popular Mobilization Forces,” Allawi said. “If they do they should restrain them, rather than go into a kind of civil war. And there should be a restraint on Masoud Barzani and the Peshmerga not to take aggressive measures to control these lands.”
However, the possibility of conflict hasn’t seemed to dissuade the Kurds.
“Do they think the Kurds are afraid of such efforts? There have been attempts to annihilate the Kurds,” said Mohammed Khurshid, who runs the Kurdistan Democratic party in Kirkuk. “The Kurds are not afraid of these threats. The Kurds want, in a democratic and peaceful way, to cast a vote to decide their fate.”
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