By Haydar Hadi
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Tuesday ruled out the notion of civil war in Iraq amid mounting tensions between Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).
“I will not allow Iraq to fall prey to civil war,” al-Abadi said in an official statement.
“As I have repeatedly said, a federal administration must be applied countrywide,” he added.
The prime minister went on to warn against what he described as “provocative acts” in disputed parts of the country.
“The torching of [Iraqi] flags is a provocative act,” he said, adding: “Citizens of Kirkuk must not be hurt.”
Tension has steadily mounted between Baghdad and the Erbil-based KRG since Sept. 25, when Iraqis in KRG-controlled areas -- and in disputed areas, including Kirkuk -- voted on whether or not to declare independence.
“The KRG referendum is now in the past,” al-Abadi said Tuesday. “The Iraqi flag belongs to all Iraqi citizens; it should be hoisted all over the country.”
After sending troops this weekend to disputed parts of the country, Iraqi officials announced Monday that Kirkuk’s strategic oilfields had been brought under the control of Iraq’s central government.
Following the Daesh terrorist group’s 2014 onslaught in northern and western Iraq, forces loyal to the KRG seized control of disputed areas in the Kirkuk, Nineveh, Diyala and Saladin provinces.
Last month’s illegitimate referendum had faced strong opposition from most regional and international actors (including the U.S., Turkey and Iran), who had warned that the poll would distract from Iraq’s fight against terrorism and further destabilize the region.