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>> We're not taking sides, but we don't like the fact that they're clashing.>> President Trump on Monday trying to keep the United States on the sidelines after Iraqi troops seized the northern city of Kirkuk in the aftermath of a Kurdish independence referendum that's shaken the fragile nation to its core.
The two forces trained and equipped by the United States to battle Islamic State now turning their guns on each other. As Baghdad seeks to assert its Authority over Kurdish controlled areas now that Isis, their common enemy has been driven out. Washington deputy foreign policy editor Yara Bayume.>> Kirkuk was taken by the Kurds in sort of the messy fallout of Isis in 2014.
That this has always been a perineal problem between the central government of Baghdad and the Kurds. Because it's very oil rich city and it's got a very ethnically mix population as well. So the United States has been very careful to encourage a de-escalation and to try and mediate and work with both the Baghdad government and the Kursk to try and diffuse the tensions.
>> Keeping Iraq stitched together has proven a perilous task since the US led 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. And the insurgency against the US occupation led to Islamic state's claim over a large parts of the country until a string of reversals in the past year. For much of that time, Kurdish Peshmerga forces have been seen as valuable allies of the US.
But often papered over has been their ongoing desire for a country of their own after decades spread across Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran.>> And here is where we think maybe the Kurds have overplayed their hands because they thought that they had the US on their side. But, the US will always try to uphold what they call the stability and the unity of Iraq.
And try and make sure that the Iraqi government is the central authority over all territories in Iraq. And so it would be quite difficult for the US government to sort of completely abandoned that and take the Kurdish side.>> We've had for many years very good relationship with the Kurds as you know.
>> A senior Kurdish official calling on the US to prevent a war, but for now they'll have to settle for US statements calling for calm.>> We're not taking sides on that battle, John.