The commanding officer of Al-Quds Force in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps has visited Kirkuk and met with a number of politicians in order to prevent fighting between the Kurdish Peshmerga militia, which effectively rules the Iraqi city, and the Shia militias beyond the city boundaries, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported on Monday.
A Kurdish political source said that Major General Qasem Soleimani's visit to Iraqi Kurdistan lasted for several days. "During this visit," explained the source, "Soleimani was a political official, not an army officer." He pointed out that the general would be informing Baghdad of his vision for the situation.
Soleimani stressed that Kirkuk should remain a city for all of its Iraqi residents. He rejected the notion that it should be annexed to Kurdistan. The Kurds, he said, should not escalate the situation following the raising of the Kurdish flag in Kirkuk. He pledged to put pressure on Baghdad to sit with the Kurds to discuss this issue in order to make sure that it does not end in military "clashes".
Any fighting between the Peshmerga and the Shia militias would only serve the cause of Daesh, he insisted. The extremist group controls about 40 per cent of the land in Kirkuk.
"External interference does not help Iraq's interests," commented former Kurdish MP Mahmoud Othman.