The Iraqi government launched military operations in Kirkuk province on Oct. 16 to reclaim key infrastructure and territory from Kurdish control. Motivated in part by the recent independence referendum held in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Baghdad has deployed the Iraqi security forces backed by select Shiite militias to reclaim stretches of disputed territory in Nineveh, Kirkuk, Salahuddin and Diyala provinces.
Both Baghdad and Arbil have claimed these disputed territories, but Kurdish peshmerga and militia forces have effectively held them for the last few years — in some cases after having been seized from the Islamic State militant group. More clashes could break out in Fishkhabor, a critical connection point for Kurdish and Iraqi crude oil pipelines that Baghdad may be planning to seize, and in Rabia along the Iraq-Syria border.
Kurdish forces, both from the official ranks of the peshmerga and other Kurdish militias, continue to fight for control of strategically important areas, including of Makhmour, which is adjacent to oil fields that are valuable to the Kurdistan Regional Government. Politically, Baghdad and Arbil are still deadlocked over how to progress: Baghdad has refused Arbil's offer to suspend the results of the recent referendum and is instead demanding a full annulment of the results.