Iraqi Turkmens warn Kirkuk may fall soon
Members of the Kurdish security forces man a checkpoint in the outskirts of Kirkuk June 16. REUTERS Photo
The ethnically volatile northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk may soon fall, as militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have been gaining ground, a leading representative of the Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITC) has warned.
“Kirkuk could fall any moment. The terrorist organization is now deployed inside the village of Basheer,” Ali Mahdi, spokesperson for the ITC, told news channel CNN Türk late June 17, referring to the mostly Turkmen village in the southwest of Kirkuk.
“We want international intervention. We want intervention from Turkey. Some 100,000 Peshmerga cannot resist against the ISIL. The Iraqi army couldn’t resist them. Now, one has to stop this terrorist organization,” Mahdi, speaking through a video conference from Kirkuk, said.
The mainly Turkmen city of Telafer, west of Mosul, had already fallen to the jihadists June 15. Reports have said terrified civilians in Kirkuk, one of the major production centers for Iraqi oil, have been fleeing shelling from ISIL, as the fighting between the Kurdish Peshmerga armed forces and the ISIL militants continues.
After ISIL militants seized Mosul and started toward Baghdad, Kurdish Peshmerga seized control of Kirkuk.
When asked whether the reports about Peshmerga’s protection of the city were true, Mahdi confirmed the protection. Yet, he added the Peshmerga are particularly experienced in fighting in mountainous areas.
“They don’t have experience fighting on the streets. We told the Peshmerga to reinforce their forces; they don’t have sufficient forces. The Peshmerga can resist 24 hours at most,” Mahdi said. “Kirkuk will fall in absence of intervention,” he reiterated.
Armed support not 'realpolitik': Deputy PM
As recently as June 16, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç downplayed prospects of armed support for Iraqi Turkmens, indicating that it would not be a “wise” move.
“[The] Iraqi Turkmen Front are wise people. They know better than both you and us that it would not be possible to ask Turkey for armed support, this does not comply with realpolitik and it is not possible for Turkey to enter into another country’s territory with its armed forces on this or that occasion,” Arınç said late on June 16 at a press conference following a Cabinet meeting.