Following the aggressive actions against Kurdistan taken by Iraqi security forces in the disputed territories since October 16, which resulted in the deaths of civilians and security forces on both sides as well as the displacement of 168,000 civilians to Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) issued a call for dialogue to prevent the escalation of a civil war.
Since October 27, senior officials from the federal Iraqi and KRG security forces have engaged in dialogue to determine the short-term plan for security in the disputed territories and control of the border crossing, particularly at Fish Khabur.
The federal Iraqi delegation created the first draft of the agreement, which was sent to the KRG for review. With input from the KRG Prime Minister and Kurdistan Region Security Council, the draft was sent back with some amendments on October 31. It was understood that the original draft was intended to be a starting point for negotiations, and the KRG believed that its amendments were entirely reasonable and were to be negotiated with the Iraqi federal delegation.
Without warning, the federal Iraqi Joint Operations Command then publicly issued the below statement (translated from Arabic), indicating that the amendments that KRG proposed have been “absolutely rejected”, calling the negotiations “a ploy”. The statement says that the federal government has “orders to secure the region and its borders”.
Tragically, it appears that dialogue has collapsed. The KRG and its security forces fear that a major attack by Iraqi military and Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) militia (including Iranian-backed militia) is imminent. This would be an extreme and likely irreversible escalation in violence that will jeopardize the safety of the diverse people of Kurdistan, nearly 2 million displaced Syrians and Iraqis, and the thousands of foreign workers and diplomats that live in the Kurdistan Region.
The KRG remains prepared to negotiate in accordance with the Iraqi Constitution. We call on the international community to bring the federal government back to negotiations and prevent an immediate and catastrophic escalation of violence.
Statement by the federal Iraqi Joint Operations Command
Showing an acute sense of responsibility and wisdom, Mr. Prime Minister Al-Abadi, General Commander of the Armed Forces, sent a high military technical delegation for a series of meetings with the security delegation from Erbil. The Prime Minister gave them a couple of days in order to avoid bloodshed and to protect citizens, but the region’s leadership and their negotiating delegation devolved completely on the evening of Tuesday 10/31/2017 on the draft agreement that the federal team had been negotiating over; this has been an apparent ploy to waste time. After all these negotiations and agreements, in the very last minute, what they offer is going back to the square one and the opposite of all that they agreed to. What they have offered has been absolutely rejected. During the negotiations the Kurdistan Region moved forces and built new defenses to impede the deployment of the federal forces and has caused losses among them. As such, we cannot keep silent and it is our duty to protect our citizens and forces. Erbil has been given a specified period of time to agree to the paper they were negotiating and has turned against it. They unfortunately are employing procrastination and treachery to kill our forces as they did before and we will not allow this to continue. The federal government has orders to secure the region and its borders, to protect civilians, and to have strict instructions not to get engaged in fights. The federal government will attempt to prevent bloodshed, but if groups of armed forces related to Erbil resist by firing at the federal forces, killing members of armed forces, or terrorizing the citizens then they will be chased by the forces of federal law and there will be no place for them to retreat.
We assure that our people’s interests everywhere where the federal forces enter shall be under its protection.