Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government Expands Territories / By Salih Bilici & Muhammet Kursun

19 March 2016 – aa-com-tr  – The Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (IKRG) has managed to expand its territories by a whopping 30,000 square kilometers since a Daesh attack back in 2014, an expert said. “The [claimed] surface of the Kurdistan region is 78,000 square kilometers,” Prof. Halil Ismail, the geographer who prepared the map of Kurdistan region back in 2006 on the request of IKRG President Masoud Barzani and then-Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, told Anadolu Agency this week. “Another 71,000 square kilometers of that surface was taken under control,” he said, adding that the remaining 7,000 square km are still under the control of the Iraqi government and Daesh.

Ahead of the Daesh offensive, IKRG, with its four provinces, Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, Halabja and Duhok, had a territory of 41,000 square kilometers. Recalling that IKRG territories expanded by 30,000 square kilometers following the Daesh offensive, Ismail said: “If the remaining regions will be taken from under the control of the central government and Daesh, Kurdistan region’s map would be completed.”

Ismail accepts that there are ongoing discussions regarding the geography of the Kurdish regions.

“[But], based on historical and geographical data, we can say that region’s surface is 78,000 square kilometers,” he said. Ismail said that that prior to the Daesh attacks, “52 percent of the Kurdish regions were controlled by peshmerga forces and the other 48 percent by the Iraqi army.”

“The Kurdish regions in Kirkuk, Saladin and Mosul were under the control of the central government,” he added. Ismail said that following the Daesh offensive, peshmerga forces have made remarkable advances and today “just 9 percent” of the Kurdish region’s territories are out of the control of Kurdish force.

IKRG has expanded its territories, including the oil rich region of Kirkuk and its districts.IKRG has also taken control of Mosul’s Mahmur, Sinjar, Talafar and Tilkaf districts in addition to the sub-districts of Guver, Sinun, Zummar and Rabia among others. IKRG President Masoud Barzani has made it clear that peshmerga forces “certainly would not get out” and that they accepted these regions as Kurdish land that was out of the Kurdish administration. Barzani said that a referendum to choose between Baghdad and Erbil needs to be held in these regions and in Mosul, after it will be taken back from Daesh. He said that everyone must respect the outcome of the possible referendum on the status of these regions. According to many local sources, the Kurdish administration wants to put the border with Sunni Arabs at Mosul Barrage and with Shia Arabs at Tuzhurmattu district. As the veiled power struggle for Kirkuk continues between Erbil and Bagdad, Mosul has to be taken back from Daesh first. Many say the problem of the “disputed regions” between the Iraqi government and the Kurdish region will return to the forefront once the regions are taken back from Daesh. The status of the disputed regions caused conflicts between Baghdad and Erbil following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.According to the 140th article of the Iraqi constitution, a referendum was to be held in 2007 in the disputed regions. The referendum was not held due to so-called “unsuitable conditions.”

Kurds now seek to officially take the administration of the regions practically under their control following battles with Daesh or after the withdrawal of Iraqi soldiers as was the case in Kirkuk.

Ismail said that Iraqi Kurds still respect the 140th article of the Iraqi constitution. “In order to determine the future status of the disputed regions, firstly a census and later a referendum, have to be held,” he said.