A confusing situation (at least to me) is escalating in Iraqi Kurdistan; this is an overview.
While we often refer to “the Kurds” there is really no such thing. The Kurds, in the best tradition of that area of the world, are divided into competing, and sometimes hostile, factions. This is a brief overview:
This one shows internal rivalries
This graphic from The Guardian shows where they live:
Two weeks ago, the KRG/KDP conducted a referendum on independence from Iraq. Even though everyone and their brother opposed the referendum, according to the KDP head, Masoud Barzani, independence won.
As an aside, the KDP is sort of hostile to the Kurds who make up the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces who are fighting ISIS in Syria.
The Iraqi Kurds were not supposed to seek independence as Baghdad and Tehran thought there was a deal for regional autonomy. In retaliation, Baghdad cut off air travel to Kurdistan. But the Kurds have not moved decisively towards independence and many observers think the referendum was a bargaining chip to wring concessions out of a hard-pressed Iraqi government.
Now a string of tweets to paint the rest of the picture:
Kurds square off with Iraq in Kirkuk, block access to airbase and oil fields https://t.co/ifIyg1nvnV
— Greg (@right_live) October 15, 2017
— Peshmerga #KIRKUK (@KURDISTAN_ARMY) October 16, 2017
Thank you !
— Iraq Day (@iraq_day) October 15, 2017
Kurdish Peshmerga takes out 4 combat vehicles for Iraq army. Vehicles probably given to Iraq by US, destroyed by weapons to Kurds by US…
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) October 16, 2017
— Namo Abdulla (@namo_abdulla) October 15, 2017
Why Kurds are negotiating with qassem suleimani no Iraqi president Haider al-abadi. Who is Iraqi president Suleimani or Al-abadi?
— god bless My country???????? (@Kawa19292374) October 15, 2017
Lots of issues here but the one that strikes me as most relevant is that fighting is not reported between the peshmerga and Iraqi security forces but rather between the peshmerga and Iranian militias under the command of Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Major General Qassem Suleimani. This implies, of course, that Iran is the party instigating the fight. It also shows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Iran is calling all of the military shots in Iraq.
What happens next? Your guess is as good as mine.