Monday Sep 25 2017

Iraq parliament demands troops go to areas disputed with Kurds

Iraqi soldiers pictured on a Russian-made T-72 tank as they advance towards the city of al-Sharqat, north of Baghdad, on September 20, 2017. — AFP Photo

BAGHDAD: Iraq's parliament demanded Monday that troops be sent to disputed areas in the north controlled by the Kurds since 2003 as the autonomous Kurdish area staged a referendum on independence.

"Parliament demands that the head of the army (Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi) deploy forces in all of the zones the autonomous region of Kurdistan has taken control of since 2003," a resolution said.

Under Iraq's constitution, the government is obliged to comply with the parliamentary vote.

Asked about the risks of armed conflict, Abadi's spokesman Saad al-Hadithi told AFP: "If there are clashes in these zones, it will be the job of federal forces to apply the law."

Karim al-Nuri, a head of the Badr Brigade which forms part of the powerful Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary units that have fought alongside the army in the drive against Daesh, pointed to the flashpoint region of Kirkuk.

"Out next objective is Kirkuk and the disputed zones occupied by armed gangs, outlaws who do not respond to the army command," he said.

The zones disputed between the Kurds and the federal government in Baghdad are not part of the three provinces in northern Iraq that form the autonomous Kurdish area.

The disputed areas are the oil-rich province of Kirkuk, as well as parts of Nineveh, Diyala and Salaheddin provinces.

Most of the disputed areas were conquered by Kurdish peshmerga forces in 2014 in the chaos that followed a sweeping offensive by Daesh militants.