Iraqi Kurds voted for independence from Iraq last month, and one tangible result of the vote emerged Monday: Iraqi forces moved in. Baghdad, which considered the referendum illegal, is worried about losing control of the oil-rich Kirkuk region in the north. As a result, state-backed militias seized two oil fields and other sites on the outskirts of the city Monday, reports the AP, setting up the potential for a longer conflict. Related:
- US vs. US: The developments put the US in an uncomfortable position. As part of the fight against ISIS, American troops have trained and supported the Iraqi forces as well as the Kurdish fighters known as peshmerga now resisting them, notes the New York Times. US troops were monitoring the developments but not taking part.
- Iran's role: Iran, too, is worried about Kurdish moves toward independence, and militias tied to the government were helping the Iraqi forces, reports the Washington Post. This comes as the US has talked of trying to limit Iran's influence in the region, leaving one Kurdish commander flummoxed. "If you want to push back Iranian influence, don’t stay quiet."
- Oil prices: World oil prices have jumped because of the crisis, and CNBC quotes an analyst who thinks the trend will continue for a while. Brent crude, the world benchmark, rose 1.4% to $57.97 a barrel. The reason is simple, explains the Financial Times: Iraq is one of the world's biggest producers of oil, and much of that oil comes from the Kirkuk region.
- Kirkuk itself: While Iraqi forces controlled installations outside Kirkuk, the city itself remained under Kurdish control, reports Reuters. Two troubling developments for the Kurds, however: They no longer control major supply lines into the city, and rifts were evident between two major factions. The Kurdistan Democratic Party, or KDP, vowed to resist, while the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, or PUK, seemed willing to make concessions.
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