During a press conference in the Rose Garden on Monday, President Trump said that the administration was not going to take sides in the growing conflict between the Kurds and the Iraqi Government. Over the past several months, the US-led coalition allied with Kurds and Iraqi troops had worked together to defeat a mutual enemy, the Islamic State, purging them from their last stronghold in Mosul, Iraq.

Kurds are denied their own independence

At the beginning of that fight for Mosul last year, various regional media sources reported that militant fighters had staged attacks in Kirkuk. The view was that ISIS fighters were trying to create a distraction of sorts over the battle in Mosul.

Within the week, those fighters were killed and eventually, the battle for Mosul was won in June. Last weekend, the Iraqi government turned against the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) sending troops to push them out of Kirkuk. This was because the KRG has had control of Kirkuk since 2014 when Iraqi troops had fled from ISIS.

Prior to ISIS advancing on Iraq from Syria three years ago, the KRG were calling for their own independence which the Iraqi government (along with the US) rejected. The Kurdish Region of Iraq and Syria are autonomous. Baghdad was outraged when in September, the KRG fulfilled their three-year-old promise to hold a referendum which they passed in September with overwhelming support. Bloomberg reported early last week that Trump's secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, was working with Baghdad, the United Kingdom, and the Kurdish government to cut a deal, avoiding the referendum, but the deal came too late.

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Fighting over oil and power

For years, the Iraqi government and the Kurds have been battling over control of the oil fields around Kirkuk which produce half a million barrels a day, It was last Monday when federal police, Iraqi forces, and anti-terrorism militia forces attacked and took back control of oil facilities, a military base, and the local airport. While Iraqi forces say that there was little resistance and therefore, few casualties, Kurdish fighters otherwise described heavy clashes on the outskirts of the city. Kurdish forces would eventually withdraw but it reported that the Peshmerga were sent to Altun Kupri north of Kirkuk to fight Iraqi forces.

Kurdish fighters have said that they feel betrayed. Despite the fact that Trump has said they would not pick sides, US officials have rejected the Kurdish effort to claim independence. Goran Iz Al-Din, a Peshmerga commander, told CNN over the weekend that they were at the beginning of a new fight with Iraqi forces. Iraqi troops and Shia militias had reportedly proceeded from Kirkuk to the city of Altun Kupri which Iraqi troops have reclaimed pushing Kurds back to Erbil.