Tehran chalked up a major victory Monday when Iraqi Shiite militias under the orders of the Revolutionary Guards’ Qassem Soleimini, alongside the Iraqi army, delivered the Kirkuk oil center to Baghdad after a short-lived operation. The Kurdish Peshmerga surprised by showing hardly any resistance after the desertion of a group of Kurdish units. The Peshmerga later issued a statement accusing a faction from one of the two main Iraqi Kurdish political parties, the ruling Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), of committing “a great and historic treason.”
DEBKAfile’s military sources note the situation around Kirkuk is not entirely clear. It appears that the troops loyal to the Talabani clan of Sulaymaniyeh, the Kurdish province that lies on the Iranian border, were intimidated by Soleimani’s threats of retribution and backed out of the fight. In less than a day, therefore, the Iraqi-Iranian force recaptured most of the oil fields around Kirkuk, which the Kurds had held for three years since the Iraqi army fled the advancing Islamic State, and also took over nearby Kurdish military bases. But by nightfall its troops had still not entered the city of Kirkuk.