News / Middle East

Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oili
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Jeffrey Young
July 20, 2014 8:54 PM
The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong.

Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, has fabulous oil wealth. It is an ethnically divided city. For years, Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen factions fought each other. Then, insurgents including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - or ISIL - unleased their terror.

In June, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Peshmerga troops, reputed to be some of the toughest fighters in this region, moved into Kirkuk to restore stability, and to protect the oil beneath it.

A monument in Kirkuk, a well-head surrounded by swords, is highly symbolic of both the value of the province’s oil, as well as the fight to control it.

Peshmerga member Mohamed Swani explains that Kirkuk’s oil now belongs to Kurds, not Baghdad, which objects to the takeover.

“Now, this place is Kurdistan. The oil is for Kurdistan. We must keep the oil, and the defense of the land, for all the places in Kurdistan.”

This reporter went out with the Peshmerga on a security patrol, to see how they keep the city and province safe, as well as the oil the Kurds want for their hoped-for independent state.

We left the military compound and pulled out into the street, our vehicle packed with troops, guns always at the ready.

The ride can be wild and bumpy, but the message put out by every Peshmerga patrol is clear - order will be kept, and those who challenge it face the barrels of many guns.

Since these Peshmerga patrols began in June, Kirkuk has enjoyed more peace than at any time in the past decade. While this patrol covers the city, other Peshmerga units have been out in the province driving out ISIL and other insurgents.

Some Iraqi government troops dropped their guns and ran when ISIL swept into Iraq, but the Peshmerga did the opposite - they engaged ISIL, known as Dash - and drove them out. Peshmerga Kamal Mohamed Mustapha explained.

“You know, Dash came - to try to control Kirkuk. But when we heard about Dash trying to do that, we came over to Kirkuk, and took Kirkuk from them. We kicked them out of Kirkuk now,” said Mustapha.

The Kirkuk oil field and its pipeline, and oil patch, Bai Hassan, are under Kurdish control.  Their pipelines are now rerouted to send the oil north and on to Turkey, to the port of Ceyhan.

Iraq’s central government has angrily reacted to the KRG’s takeover of Kirkuk and these oil fields. But the Kurds have made it clear that they will not give them back to Baghdad. This oil, as Kamal Mohamed Mustapha says, guarantees the viability of an independent Kurdistan.

“This oil is the future of Kurdistan, so if there is no oil, there is no future,” says Mustapha.

The Peshmerga say that if Baghdad wants to take Kirkuk back by force, they are ready to fight.


Jeffrey Young

Jeffrey Young came to the “Corruption” beat after years of doing news analysis, primarily on global strategic issues such as nuclear proliferation.  During most of 2013, he was on special assignment in Baghdad and elsewhere with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR).  Previous VOA activities include VOA-TV, where he created the “How America Works” and “How America Elects” series, and the “Focus” news analysis unit.

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: sam from: us
July 21, 2014 11:02 PM
kirkuk is belong to kurdish of course the going to keep it.

by: tedD from: usa
July 21, 2014 10:25 PM
Russia and China will veto a Kurdish state.

by: Tracy Ultican from: Minnesota
July 21, 2014 10:15 AM
I have read about the Kurds for a number of years. These people started as a organized rebel group during Sadam's regime and have fought the Turks. If we go back farther in History they once ruled the area they now have during the Automn Empire. The Kurds will prevail in this area and if the USA is smart they will side with them. They are more pluraistic than Bagdad, enjoy democracy and are fairly forward thinking when it comes to women's rights.

by: redmanrt from: Jacksonville, FL
July 21, 2014 8:44 AM
Mosul is next.

by: Anonymous
July 21, 2014 6:23 AM
Do you think ISIS can challenge 500K syrian Army and Iraq's government but not the Kurdish regions? Conspiracy theories about Kurds and ISIS cooperating is correct. The mutual aim is to disintegrate Iraq.
In Response

by: Jeffrey Young from: Back in Washington
July 25, 2014 7:47 PM
Anonymous: Your "conspiracy theory" about ISIS (ISIL) and the Kurds cooperating "to disintegrate Iraq" holds not a drop of water. I was with Peshmerga forces which engaged and killed Dash (ISIL) that they engaged. Pehmerga liquidate Dash. Watch the video embedded in this piece. Why do you post such things? So that someone might believe it? I have lived in the ME for a long time. I know what you are.

by: Free Man
July 21, 2014 3:59 AM
Good for the Kurds. Kirkuk was historically Kurdish until Saddam Hussein force populated it with Arabs to gain influence there. I wish the Kurds all success in their independence.

by: Anonymous
July 21, 2014 3:55 AM
Seems like the Kurds on the only entity in Iraq that have their stuff together. They should keep Kirkuk,
In Response

by: Anonymous
July 21, 2014 6:23 AM
Don't believe what ever you see. Look deeper.

by: James from: St. Paul MN
July 20, 2014 9:21 PM
Nothing like writing an article on month old news as if was new. What did you do copy and paste articles from june because you where in a hurry.
In Response

by: Jeffrey Young from: Back in DC from Iraq
July 25, 2014 7:53 PM
Excuse me, sir. I was live, on the scene, producing my pieces from the video I was shooting as it was happening. The statements given to me were made on Wednesday, June 16 - the day I went out on the Kirkuk security patrol with the Peshmerga. "Copy and paste articles?" You have no position or point here. Regards.

by: US
July 20, 2014 8:31 PM
"The Peshmerga say that if Baghdad wants to take Kirkuk back by force, they are ready to fight."
So the truth comes out, ISIS is viewed by Kurds as liberators.
In Response

by: Jeffrey Young from: Back in DC from Iraq
July 25, 2014 8:02 PM
"So the truth comes out, ISIS is viewed by Kurds as liberators." Not hardly, sir. I know firsthand, as this article and video confirm. The Kurdish Peshmerga is hunting down and killing Dash (ISIL) so that the entire province (Governate) is secure. I was not involved in a live fire engagement with Dash, but I did come up on a combat scene about 18 hours old. It was rather clear that the Peshmerga liquidated the insurgents. The oil beneath the ground in Kirkuk is the future of an independent Kurdistan. What I said in my piece is true: the Kurdish Peshmerga will fight the Iraqi army fiercely if Baghdad moves to try to retake Kirkuk from the KRG. But to suggest that Kurds are pleased that Dash severed a large piece of Sunni Iraq is something I cannot support. Regards.
In Response

by: NA from: NA
July 21, 2014 1:38 AM
wrong ..it was an opportunity for them to gain independence in the face that their own govt were cowards....

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