No Iranian Military Role in Kirkuk Operation

No Iranian Military Role in Kirkuk Operation No Iranian Military Role in Kirkuk Operation

A senior official said Iran's military has played no role in the ongoing Iraqi operation to take back northern territories under Kurdish control, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk on Monday.

"The IRGC played no role in the Kirkuk operation," ISNA quoted Ali Akbar Velayati as saying on Tuesday.

Velayati was referring to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, a branch of Iran's armed forces whose advisors assist Iraqi troops in their fight against the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group.

Tensions have soared in Iraq since last month when the Kurdistan Regional Government led by Masoud Barzani held a secession referendum in the Kurdish territory and parts of northern Iraq, which came under its control in the summer of 2014.

The vote was roundly rejected by the federal government and neighboring Iran and Turkey, and drew widespread criticism from the international community.

The Iraqi Army troops captured Kirkuk, in the heart of a major oil production region, shortly after starting the operation and without facing any resistance from Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.

Kirkuk came under Kurdish control after IS swept across northern Iraq in a 2014 lightning offensive and the Iraqi Army units stationed there crumbled.

The Baghdad government had long insisted that the Kurds pull out of the territories they had overrun, but its repeated demands had fallen on deaf ears in Erbil.

Velayati, a foreign policy advisor to the Leader of Islamic Revolution, said a majority of Iraqi Kurds do not agree with the designs of "overambitious" Barzani, a fact confirmed by the speed and success of the Iraqi military advance.

"Mr. Barzani ought to accept he was wrong, admit to making a mistake and seek to make up for that," he said.

Many observers see the secessionist push as a disastrous miscalculation by Barzani who depends on the oil wealth of Kirkuk for running his government.

Kurdish militants led by Barzani have called the Kirkuk takeover "a flagrant declaration of war" and vowed that Iraq will pay a "heavy price".

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