The Iraqi army attacked Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq on Monday in a bid to take control of the city of Kirkuk.
The army claimed to have taken control of a military airport and an oilfield near the city.
The city’s Kurdish governor Najmaldin Karim called on citizens to come out onto the streets to stop the invasion.
It comes after a referendum organised by the autonomous Kurdish government in northern Iraq returned a 93 percent vote for independence.
The referendum included areas where Kurdish Peshmerga forces took control after Iraq’s army fled the advance of Isis.
But these have mixed Kurdish and Arab populations and are claimed by the Iraqi government. Human rights group Amnesty International claims the Peshmerga forcibly displaced Arabs after capturing those areas.
The Iraqi government opposed the referendum as did Iran and Turkey, which both have large Kurdish areas.
All three are desperate to stop the Kurds from declaring independence. Israel cynically supported the referendum in the hope that it would weaken its main rival Iran.
Kurdish forces in northern Iraq have sometimes mistakenly sided with imperialist powers in the hope that they’ll be allowed independence—but have always been let down. Despite the flaws of the Iraqi Kurdish government, independence for the Kurds would weaken all imperial powers in the Middle East and should be supported.