Where Is Russia’s Strongman in the Coronavirus Crisis?
Putin Lets Local Leaders Take the Credit and the Fall
On October 16, the world woke to footage of the Iraqi army barreling toward Kirkuk, several hundred miles north of Baghdad. Their mission was to reclaim the city, but not from jihadists; rather, they planned to win it back from the Kurds. Three years ago, as the Islamic State (ISIS) tore into Iraq, the country’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) fought back against the fundamentalists and captured Kirkuk for itself. At the time, Baghdad reluctantly acquiesced. But by October 2017, Iraq’s central government was becoming anxious. Buoyed by Kirkuk’s oil revenues, the KRG had held a historic independence referendum in September. Washington quickly urged Baghdad not to move forward with any offensive against the Kurds. But the Iraqi army pressed toward Kirkuk anyway, relying on Iran-backed Shiite militias while also courting Turkish support.
In this saga of power dynamics and kaleidoscopically shifting rivalries, the United States is a key player.