Neighbors show off military strength along Iraqi Kurdistan’s borders.
Neither Iraq, Iran nor Turkey are happy that Iraqi’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region went ahead with its referendum on independence last month. They responded by threatening economic sanctions, along with other punitive measures, and flexing their military muscles by conducting exercises on Iraqi Kurdistan’s doorstep. These exercises serve as a striking reminder of the significant amounts of American-made hardware in all these countries’ inventories.
The Iraqi military — which is wrapping up its war with Islamic State following the removal of the militants from their last significant stronghold, Hawija in Kirkuk province — has coordinated military exercises with both Iran and Turkey since the Kurdish referendum.
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The central Iraqi government has effectively closed the airspace over Iraqi Kurdistan and seeks to take full control over the region’s border posts — which it may well get, but only on the Iranian and Turkish sides of these frontiers.
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Even though the Iraqi parliament called upon Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi to send the army into the city of Kirkuk — controlled by the Kurds since June 2014 — to forcibly take control over the oil fields there, this hasn’t transpired … at least not yet. The Peshmerga are garrisoned in Kirkuk, a city of vast importance to Kurdish nationalists, and are unlikely to relinquish control over it without a fight.
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