By Ahmed Qasim
Iraqi government forces on Wednesday assumed control of a strategic border crossing with Syria, according to an Iraqi military source.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Army Major Mohamed al-Omari said troops had hoisted the Iraqi flag over the Rabia border crossing linking the city of Rabia in Iraq’s northwestern Nineveh province to the city of Al-Yarubiyah in neighboring Syria.
“Security conditions are now stable in Rabia city,” al-Omari said, noting, however, that Peshmerga forces loyal to northern Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) were still deployed in the vicinity.
“Iraqi military forces have been instructed to bring the area back under the control of the central government in Baghdad,” he added.
Kurdish Peshmerga forces assumed control of the crossing shortly after the Daesh terrorist group overran large swathes of territory in northern and western Iraq in mid-2014. Earlier this week, Iraqi forces secured Iraq’s oil-rich Kirkuk province following the withdrawal of Peshmerga forces.
The moves come amid steadily mounting tension between Baghdad and the Erbil-based KRG following last month’s illegitimate referendum on regional independence.
On Sept. 25, Iraqis in KRG-controlled-held areas -- and in several areas disputed between Baghdad and Erbil -- voted on whether or not to declare full political autonomy from Iraq.
According to poll results announced by the KRG, almost 93 percent of those who cast ballots voted in favor of independence.
The referendum had faced sharp 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 already-volatile region.