Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani arrived in Irbil Sunday, stepping into the Kurdish disputes with Baghdad over Kirkuk and their Sept. 25 independence referendum.
Both Iraq and the Kurdish Peshmerga have massed troops in and around Kirkuk to underline their conflicting claims to the oil city. Iraqi army units are strengthened by pro-Iranian militia fighters. Baghdad has extended its deadline for the Kurdish Peshmerga to surrender its positions in Kirkuk, held since they pushed ISIS back three years ago, from early Sunday to Sunday night.
Tehran has meanwhile shut its Bashmagh border crossing into Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG)’s Sulaimaniyeh province without explanation. Iran, Turkey and the Iraqi government are opposed to Kurdish independence and secession.