ERBIL, Iraq – ISIS is still dangerous in parts of Iraq – and in Kiruk, they’re just across from the Kurdish frontlines. But on Tuesday, Kurdish soldiers are preparing to defend against a very different threat – Baghdad.
One day after the referendum, which saw an over 70 percent turnout, and around 3.3 million people vote in a resounding yes, soldiers manning those lines, told Fox News proudly that this frontline was the new Kurdish border.
“Be assured we will stay in these trenches – whether it’s the militias, or ISIS or the Iraqi army who come – this is our border. We will never leave,” said Mofaq Borhan Ibrahim, a first lieutenant in the Peshmerga forces.
But on Tuesday, the governor of disputed, oil-rich Kirkuk, Dr. Najmaldin Karim, as well as other Kurdish politicians, tried to downplay that.
But every soldier I spoke to believes it is. To them, this is their land – they’ve fought for it and many have died for it. And now two U.S. allies are sitting on a tinderbox that could erupt into a full blown conflict.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country is considering all options, ranging from military intervention to economic sanctions against Iraq's Kurdish region.
He added that the landlocked Iraqi Kurdish region would not be able to survive without Turkey's support.
The Turkish leader said no country other than Israel supports the Iraqi Kurdish referendum on independence, which he described as "invalid" and "fraudulent" and said attempts by Kurds to form an independent state are doomed to fail.
“We are not looking for war,” Karim said. “But the Peshmerga will defend the city under any circumstances”