How Iran helped Baghdad seize back Kirkuk

By Fazel Hawramy for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

Around 8 p.m. on Oct. 15, an Iranian general from the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) accompanied by Iraqi Commanders Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Hadi al-Ameri sat down with the Kurdish commanders in Kirkuk.

The IRGC commander, known only by his surname, Eqbalpour, who works closely with Quds Force chief Qasem Soleimani (pictured), told the Kurds to give up the city peacefully. “If you resist, we will crush you and you will lose everything,” the general warned the peshmerga commanders, a source with intimate knowledge of the meeting told Al-Monitor.

The Kurdish leadership had turned down repeated requests by Soleimani to cancel the Sept. 25 independence referendum, to his indignation. The peshmerga commanders who had fought Saddam Hussein’s army alongside Soleimani and other IRGC commanders in the 1980s knew that the Quds Force commander would take his revenge. After consulting with the top Kurdish leadership, the peshmerga commanders told Eqbalpour that they would not give up Kirkuk.

The Iranian commander took out a map of the area and spread it out in front of his Kurdish counterparts. “This is our military plan. We will hit you tonight from three points — here, here and here,” the Quds Force officer stated, and then left the meeting with his entourage.

Not far from the main Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) building in Kirkuk, where the meeting took place, a group of American military advisers sat at the sprawling K1 air base. The soldiers would keep their silence as Soleimani and the Iraqis orchestrated the attacks on Kirkuk. One Kurdish official even suggested that there must have been an international agreement to launch such a coordinated strike. The Kurds were in for a big surprise.