Iraqi forces launch operation to clear oil route to Iran in southern Kirkuk

Iraqi forces on Wednesday launched a military operation to consolidate control of an area near the Iranian border to be used for the export of Iraqi oil, according to the Iraqi army.
author_image Sangar Ali

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi forces on Wednesday launched a military operation to consolidate control of an area near the Iranian border to be used for the export of Iraqi oil, according to the Iraqi army.

The operation is taking place in the south of Kirkuk Province, in the mountainous terrain where armed groups have emerged and remain active since late 2017.

Iraqi oil officials announced in December plans to export Kirkuk’s crude oil via trucks to Kermanshah’s (Kermanshan) refinery in Iranian Kurdistan (Rojhilat). Shipping would have begun last week, and no comment has been made so far by officials regarding the delay.

Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi (PMF) militias are participating in the operation, according to the military’s statement.

The military campaign has a five-prong strategy to clear the region from the White Flag group’s supporters and fighters, according to Shia militia commanders.

Following the military takeover of Kirkuk and Khurmatu by Iraqi forces and the Shia militias on Oct. 16, a militant group emerged in the mountainous areas south of Khurmatu.

There’s little information about the group which is known to fly a White Flag with a lion’s head prominently displayed. Local reports suggest it is comprised of Sunni fighters of various backgrounds fighting against Iraqi security forces, namely the Shia militias.

To the eastern side of Khurmatu lies a village, a remote mountain range, and vast desert areas. Many people are hesitant to report the presence of the White Flag militants hiding in the rough terrain.

Most of the residents in the area are also ethnically Kurds.

The Kurds have been subjected to violations and human right abuses since the withdrawal of Peshmerga forces from Kirkuk and Khurmatu in October.

Over 170,000 people, mostly Kurds, fled from the disputed territory to other cities in the Kurdistan Region following the attack, fearing abuses and violations at the hands of the militia groups. Thousands of houses, shops, and properties in Khurmatu have been burnt or destroyed, and the security situation has considerably deteriorated.

Khurmatu is a multi-ethnic town, historically claimed by the Kurds living alongside Arabs and Turkmen. The disputed city is located between northern Salahadin province and southern Kirkuk Province.

Editing by Nadia Riva