Iraqi forces seize Kirkuk governor's office in push against Kurds

Iraq PM denies attack plan as tensions rise with Kurds

Iraq PM denies attack plan as tensions rise with Kurds

Overnight Iraqi national army on Sunday took control of Kirkuk's industrial district, as well as the city's oil refinery before going on the move, reportedly without any opposition from Kurdish Peshmerga militia that had controlled the area since the collapse of Islamic State (ISIL) despite it being outside of their semi-autonomous region.

The operation comes as Kurdish Peshmerga fighters gathered to the south of Kirkuk amid an escalating row between the central government in Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq.

The Kurdistan Region Security Council said early Monday that the peshmerga destroyed at least five US-supplied Humvees being used by Iraq's state-sanctioned militias following the "unprovoked attack" south of the city.

The independence of Kurdistan is opposed not only by the Iraqi central government, but also by most other countries as it would threaten the integrity of Iraq and undermine the fight against Islamic State militants. "IS remains the true enemy of Iraq, and we urge all parties to remain focused on finishing the liberation of their country from this menace".

Washington has trained and equipped the advancing Iraqi troops and the peshmerga Kurdish forces on the other side.

Iraqi oil industry officials said there was no disruption to production from the facilities of the North Oil Company, which is based in Kirkuk and one of the two main oil companies that together provide almost all of Iraq's government revenue.

The referendum had faced strong opposition from most regional and global actors (including the U.S., Turkey and Iran), who warned that the poll would distract from Iraq's fight against terrorism and further destabilize the already-volatile region.

While Kirkuk is outside Iraqi Kurdistan, Kurdish voters in the city were allowed to take part. Terrified families piled into cars and fled, clogging the highway to the city of Sulaimaniyah in Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdish region.

The federal government has sent troops into areas around Kirkuk and soldiers haven't entered the city boundaries, Kareem, the governor, said.

The KDP-affiliated Kurdistan Region Security Council said it destroyed five USA -supplied Humvees used in the advance by Iraq's popular mobilization units, an umbrella group containing Iranian-backed militias that fight as part of Iraq's security forces.

Russia's Crude Oil Production Was Flat in September 2017
"We think it's for real", the global head of commodities research told CNBC on Monday. That left prices down roughly 1% for the week and 2.7% for the month.

The military action in Kirkuk helped spur a jump in world oil prices on Monday.

The Iraqi government operation began early on Monday morning as troops swiftly seized two major oilfields and the headquarters of the North Oil Company. Kamran Kardaghi, a Kurdish commentator and former chief of staff to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who died last week says that "the Kurdish leadership never expected that there would be such consequences to the referendum".

The US has been closely allied to the Kurds in Iraq and Syria, but strongly opposed the independence referendum which it saw as provocative and divisive.

The PUK had supported a UN-backed plan for negotiations with Baghdad in exchange for dropping the referendum.

"The war on ISIS is edging to an end and now the real war starts, the war between the regional powers in order to control resources and define their own areas of influence", said Sami Nader, head of the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs in Beirut.

The status of Kirkuk and fate of the Kurds were left unsettled 14 years ago when a US-led invasion toppled Saddam.

"We salute and appreciate the courageous position of the peshmerga fighters who refused to fight their brothers in the Iraqi forces", Qais al-Khazali, leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq Shiite militia, backed by Iran, said on Twitter.

Turkey, which had developed a good working relationship with the Iraqi Kurds and let the landlocked region export oil through its pipes, has swung behind Baghdad, furious at a secession bid that might ignite similar demands from its own Kurds.

Their leader Barzani said the time had come for an independence referendum.

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