Iraqi forces backed by Iranian allied militias began an assault on Thursday to reclaim more Kurdish-held territory, advancing toward a crossing on the Syrian border that provides the only access for U.S. military operations in northern Syria.
The combined force set out at dawn from the town of Zummar, north of Mosul, and was headed north toward the main border crossing with Turkey, which Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi has vowed to bring under Iraqi government control.
A protracted fight over border crossings could severely disrupt American military activity in neighboring Syria, while also straining the ability of aid organizations to provide desperately needed supplies to nearly 300,000 civilians that fled fighting to reclaim the Syrian city of Raqqa from Islamic State across the border.
Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, told the Associated Press on Thursday that the fighting has “negatively impacted Coalition efforts to defeat ISIS, specifically the inability to move military equipment and supplies to our partners both in Iraq and Syria.”
The fresh assault came as Abadi dismissed a Kurdish offer for a cease-fire, signaling Baghdad is determined to follow through on its goal of exerting full control over all borders with neighboring countries, even those that have been an economic lifeline for the semiautonomous Kurdish Regional Government.
Speaking during a visit to Tehran on Thursday, Abadi said he would not accept anything less than a full annulment of last month’s Kurdish referendum on independence. The vote provoked the ongoing crisis which has seen Iraqi forces enter areas disputed by Kurds and Iraq’s central government for the first time since 2014.
The KRG had offered on Wednesday to “suspend” the referendum results in exchange for Iraqi forces stopping their advance. Some of the areas Iraqi troops are now moving on have been controlled by Kurds since 2003.
In an interview on Tuesday with The Washington Post, Abadi reiterated that asserting Iraqi government control over disputed areas included all borders.
Source: Washington Post