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Kurds’ Euphoria Gives Way to Infighting

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Oil Gains on Kurdish, Iraq Tensions Disrupting Flows

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As Iraqi troops melted away amid Islamic State’s northern offensive in 2014, Kurdish forces rushed to fill the breach, seizing the contested city of Kirkuk and nearby oil fields. Suddenly, a viable vision of a long-cherished state emerged. Just as abruptly, it’s all gone wrong. The government of Kurdish President Masoud Barzani held a referendum on independence, and 93 percent of voters said yes. But the national government in Baghdad -- not to mention neighbors Iran and Turkey -- objected. Flights to Iraq’s Kurdish region were halted, border gates shut. Iraqi government forces retook Kirkuk and neighboring areas, symbolically lowering the Kurdish flag. And now the Kurds are feuding among themselves.

Less than a month after the referendum, the euphoria over the outcome has given way to dissension. Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party has accused its coalition partner, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, of striking a treacherous deal with Abadi. The charge is that the PUK ordered military forces loyal to it to abandon Kirkuk without a fight. While the PUK hasn’t directly responded to those claims, some members condemned the plebiscite as an attempt to secure the hegemony of the KDP.