Kurds Begin Return Home to Kirkuk; Eight Killed in Iraq

On Tuesday, Kurds began returning home to Kirkuk after the relatively peaceful handover of the city back to federal forces. Elsewhere, Kurdish forces handed over Makhmour, Mosul Dam, and Rabeaa. Khanaqin and Mandali were also given back. Iraqi forces took over the oil fields of Avana and Bai Hassan, but the Kurds still control the Khurmala field near Erbil. Peshmerga forces withdrew from Gwer.

Although Peshmerga forces loyal to both the Kurdistan Democratic Party (Kurdish President Masoud Barzani’s party) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan deserted their posts across the disputed areas, the P.U.K. is being blamed for the unexpected withdrawal of Peshmerga forces.

It is unlikely that the overmatched Kurds would have been able to hold territory for very long anyway. The Peshmerga ministry’s secretary-general, Jabbar Yawar, said a decision had been made to avoid bloodshed. Masoud Haider, a Kurdish member of the Iraqi Parliament’s finance committee, admitted a deal had been made between Kurdish forces and Shi’ite militias.

Many Kurds feel betrayed by the United States, which took no sides in the standoff. Some U.S. politicians, however, spoke out against the violence or U.S. neutrality: Senator Marco Rubio, Senator James Inhofe, Senator Lindsey Graham, and Senator Richard Blumenthal were among them.

Similarly, some Yazidis in Sinjar feel abandoned again by the withdrawal of Peshmerga forces, as they do not know what to expect now. The first force to secure the town on Tuesday was a local Yazidi militia group. Later, militiamen from elsewhere came to take control. The last time security forces left, the Islamic State militants moved in and began a genocide of the Yazidi people that is still ongoing.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is now calling for dialogue with the Kurds and claims that he does not want a new civil war.

A member of the Kurdish Parliament, Shwan Qaladzayi, was killed in a traffic accident while traveling between Erbil and Kirkuk on Monday.

At least eight people were killed and two were wounded:

A bomb wounded two civilians in Ramadi.

Eight militants were killed during an operation in Rawah.

Author: Margaret Griffis

Margaret Griffis is a journalist from Miami Beach, Florida and has been covering Iraqi casualties for Antiwar.com since 2006.