Picture taken on October 14, 2017 shows civilian taking up arms to defend the oil-rich city of Kirkuk against a potential attack by the Iraqi forces. Photo: Rudaw TV
KIRKUK, Kurdistan Region – Peshmerga intelligence shows beyond a doubt that Iranian Revolutionary Guards are among the ranks of the Iraqi army and the Hashd al-Shaabi stationed south and west of Kirkuk.
“The Iraqi army and the Hashd al-Shaabi are not the only state that are attacking us. We have intelligence with 100 percent accuracy that there are also the Iranian army and the Revolutionary Guards among them,” Shwan Shamerani, commander of the Peshmerga second brigade in Kirkuk, told Rudaw on Saturday.
The Peshmerga General Command said in a statement on Friday that Iraqi forces were preparing to attack the Peshmerga-controlled areas with “foreign encouragement and backing.” It did not provide more details.
Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani also on Friday urged Iraqi forces and “any foreign force” against igniting a war between Erbil and Baghdad.
A Peshmerga commander told Rudaw that an Iraqi attack is imminent.
“Big masses of forces, with big fire [weapons], does not mean good will, or send a good gesture. This force has been deployed and they have said themselves, they say so in public, that ‘we want to enter Kirkuk,’” said Wasta Rasul, commander of the southern front in Kirkuk.
Kurdish military officials have said that the Iraqi forces have set a deadline to hand over their areas to a combination of Iraqi forces and mainly Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi, or face an attack. The Iraqi government has denied such ultimatums exist.
“Their demand is to take over the airport, the oil factories, the urban areas. In short, they want to take over Kirkuk,” said Ayub Yousif, a Peshmerga general.
“We took these areas with blood,” he continued, vowing they will defend the areas with more blood.
The Iraqi forces have already taken some areas south and west of Kirkuk, in Bashir and Taza, following a Peshmerga “tactical” withdrawal on Thursday night.
Baghdad has said that they want to “redeploy” their forces to areas that were under Iraqi control before the rise of ISIS in June 2014.