Following the recent and brief battle over Kirkuk, Iraqi troops carried out a swift operation to reclaim all of the oil producing facilities that were previously under Kurdish control. Since Islamic State extremists had seized control of many cities across Iraq in 2014 causing Iraqi forces to flee, the Kurdish government in Northern Iraq attempted to expand their control of their autonomous region into Kirkuk. At the time, the Kurdish government declared that they would hold a referendum calling for their independence soon. It would not happen until September of this year which reportedly got overwhelming support.

Kurdish government V. Baghdad

But the referendum angered neighboring Turkey, who associate the Kurds with terrorists, Iran, the United States and the Iraqi Government which started pushing Kurdish separatists out last Monday. The New York Times' "Iraqi forces retake all oil fields in disputed areas as Kurds retreat," said that the retreat by the Kurdish separatists was helped by an agreement with Iraqi troops to withdraw peacefully. It also points out that the Kurds had been able to receive billions of dollars in oil revenue from those oil facilities, which they exported to other countries for the last three years.

For years, the Iraqi government has been disputing control over those oil fields with the Kurds, who have sold oil without Baghdad's involvement since Saddam Hussein was forced out.

The recent purge has put the Kurdish president Massoud Barzani and the Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, at odds. Al-Abadi made a statement this week saying that the Kurdish referendum "is finished and has become a thing of the past" while Barzani's statement warned Baghdad to not go past the areas that they had just reclaimed.

On Friday, Kurdish Peshmerga were sent in to fight back against Iraqi troops, which a Peshmerga commander said was the beginning of a new fight with Iraq.

Triggering conflict with the Kurdish state

While the Kurdish government have definitely lost access to three-years of oil revenue, Barzani said in his statement that they would allocate all of their resources to secure and stabilize the region of Kurdistan.

The Times article said that the US had made it clear to Barzani that a referendum would only recreate the same kind of tensions that helped the Islamic State advance on Iraq. Aside from this, however, the Trump administration has said that they would rather not side with the Kurds of or Iraqis in this conflict.

Since 2014, the US has allied with the Kurds and Iraqi forces to purge the Islamic State group from the area. In fact, the US allied with Syrian Kurds and has provided arms against ISIS in Raqqa. But it's also been pointed out that Turkey and Iran had isolated the Kurds even further, preventing them from controlling their own borders as they had once before. Now, with the Kurdish government losing 70 percent of their oil production, it's suggested that their retreat could cripple the Kurdish state. Iraqi forces also took control of the Diyala and Nineveh provinces which the Kurdish Regional Government says is turning their issue into a humanitarian crisis.