Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) spokesman Fouad Hussein informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Peshmerga forces had deployed to the Iraqi city of Kirkuk to combat the encroaching presence of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters on the basis of a request from outgoing prime minister Nuri Al-Maliki.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) had faced criticism from some sections of Iraqi following the troops deployment, with some saying that the Kurdish forces were exploiting ISIS’s presence to take control of the disputed city. Peshmerga forces were deployed to Kirkuk—which many Kurds view as the historic capital of Kurdistan—to repel ISIS’s northwards advance following the terrorist group’s capture of Mosul last month.
However KRG spokesman has now said that the Peshmerga’s deployment was based on a request from the office of the prime minister. He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “On July 10, Hamid Al-Mousawi, the executive director of Maliki’s office, telephoned me. He said that he was speaking on behalf of the prime minister and requested that Peshmerga forces enter Kirkuk because there were fears that ISIS was going to take control of the city. I said, ‘Very well, we will enter to protect Kirkuk.’ Therefore, this means that the Peshmerga forces entered the city at Maliki’s request.”
“If ISIS had been able to gain control of Kirkuk, this would have been a massive calamity for the Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen, They would have been able to gain control of the oil wells and pipeline,” he added.
Hussein outlined the current situation on the ground in northern Iraq, stressing that Kurdish Peshmerga forces are on the advance.
“The threat from ISIS towards the [Kurdistan] region remains present, but at the same time we are resisting. Although there have been some setbacks due to operational flaws, [but] the Peshmerga forces have been restructured and now the operation is taking place at the hands or regional forces while the terrorist ISIS forces are in retreat,” Hussein told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“The front-lines of our confrontation with ISIS extends approximately 1,500 km from the outskirts of Mosul to south of [the city of] Khanaqin. The confrontation today is taking place on the outskirts of Mosul after we liberated and took control of Mosul dam, while there are also confrontations taking place on the outskirts of Kirkuk and Jalula,” he added.