Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior member of Iran’s Expediency Council, rejected the notion that the Islamic Republic helped the central government in neighboring Iraq to take full control over the disputed region of Kirkuk, which was previously held by Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
“Iran has no role in the Kirkuk operation,” Velayati told reporters on the sidelines of his meeting with Special Envoy of France to Syria Franck Gellet in Tehran on Tuesday.
He further pointed to the independence referendum recently held in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region and said the majority of Iraq’s Kurdish people are opposed to the ambitions of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani.
“We saw that the region (Kirkuk) was captured by the Baghdad government almost without any clashes,” said Velayati, who is also an international adviser to the Leader of the Islamic Revolution.
Iraqi forces completed an operation to take control of all oil fields operated by state-owned North Oil Company in the Kirkuk region on Tuesday, according to a senior military officer.
They took control of the Bai Hasan and Avana oil fields northwest of Kirkuk on Tuesday, after seizing the Baba Gurgur, Jambur and Khabbaz fields on Monday, he said, Reuters reported.
Oil officials in Baghdad said all the fields were operating normally.
The fields were previously held by Kurdish Peshmerga forces, but they pulled out of the area in the face of an advance by forces of the Iraqi central government.
Tuesday’s deployment of Iraqi government forces in Dibis, where Bai Hasan and Avana are located, is part of an operation ordered by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to take control of Kurdish-held areas outside the three provinces that form Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region.
The latest incidents come amid simmering tensions between the central government in Baghdad and the KRG over a recent controversial referendum on the secession of the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdish region.
The plebiscite took place on September 25, sparking strong objection from Baghdad. Iraq’s neighbors and the international community also voiced concerns about the repercussions of the vote, which was only supported by Israel.
Kirkuk, with some 10 percent of Iraq’s oil reserves, has long been contested by Baghdad and Erbil.
(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)