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Dispute between Kurds and Iraqi government escalates in Kirkuk

Iraqi soldiers on military vehicles in the Qatash area towards Kirkuk gas plant Monday. Photo made from video: APTN via AP

After Iraqi forces moved in to oil-rich Kirkuk over the weekend, Kurds have started fleeing the disputed area, some heading for the Kurdish capital of Erbil, 60 miles to the north, per NPR. Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said it was necessary to send in troops to "protect the unity of the country, which was in danger of partition"— this comes about a month after Kurds voted overwhelmingly for independence, a vote al-Abadi said was unconstitutional.

The U.S. factor: The U.S. supports both the Kurdish forces, the Peshmerga, and Iraqi government forces in the fight against ISIS, and has provided both sides with weapons. The U.S., like Baghdad, opposed the Kurdish referendum vote and today the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad stuck to the State Department line, urging all parties to remember "ISIS remains the true enemy of Iraq."