Around 8 p.m. on Oct. 15, an Iranian general from the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) accompanied by Iraqi Commanders Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Hadi al-Ameri sat down with the Kurdish commanders in Kirkuk. The IRGC commander, known only by his surname, Eqbalpour, who works closely with Quds Force chief Qasem Soleimani, told the Kurds to give up the city peacefully. “If you resist, we will crush you and you will lose everything,” the general warned the peshmerga commanders, a source with intimate knowledge of the meeting told Al-Monitor.
The Kurdish leadership had turned down repeated requests by Soleimani to cancel the Sept. 25 independence referendum, to his indignation. The peshmerga commanders who had fought Saddam Hussein’s army alongside Soleimani and other IRGC commanders in the 1980s knew that the Quds Force commander would take his revenge. After consulting with the top Kurdish leadership, the peshmerga commanders told Eqbalpour that they would not give up Kirkuk.