Iraqi Kurds prepared to commit 'all forces' to defend Kirkuk-
KIRKUK, Kurdistan region,— Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region is prepared to commit all of its forces to defend Kirkuk, its president said on Thursday during a visit to the disputed city.
If required, "we will bring all of our forces to preserve Kirkuk," the president of Kurdistan region, Massoud Barzani said during a meeting there.
It was Barzani's first visit to Kirkuk since Kurdish Peshmerga forces took control of it and after Iraqi forces withdrew in the face of a major offensive by al-Qaeda linked Islamic-jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham ISIS.
The offensive has cleared the way for Iraqi Kurds to begin realising long-held territorial dreams, moving their forces into disputed areas that the federal government has long opposed them adding to their autonomous northern region.
But this has also put Kurdish forces directly in the militants' line of fire.
According to Rudaw, Kurdish Peshmerga reinforcements sent to Kirkuk on Thursday.
Barzani made the trip to inspect Kurdish security forces deployed near ISIS-controlled areas south and west of the city and raise morale, an official from hiswww.Ekurd.netKurdistan Democratic Party said.
The Kurds say Kirkuk is historically a Kurdish city, the population is a mix of majority Kurds and minority of Arabs, Christians and Turkmen.
Kurds have a strong cultural and emotional attachment to Kirkuk, which they call "the Kurdish Jerusalem." Kurds see it as the rightful and perfect capital of an autonomous Kurdistan state.
The former regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had forced over 250,000 Kurdish residents to give up their homes to Arabs in the 1970s, to "Arabize" the city and the region's oil industry.
The last ethnic-breakdown census in Iraq was conducted in 1957, well before Saddam began his program to move Arabs to Kirkuk. That count showed 178,000 Kurds, 48,000 Turkomen, 43,000 Arabs and 10,000 Assyrian-Chaldean Christians living in the city.