A boy rides a bicycle flying the Iraqi national flag past a wall mural depicting the Kurdish flag in the area of Dibs, west of Kirkuk on October 17, 2017, on the southern outskirts of the northern Iraqi city.AFP / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE
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After years of focusing divided Iraq on a shared fight against Daesh (ISIS), the U.S. is now straining to leverage its limited influence to avoid a full-blown conflict between the Iraqi and Kurdish forces it has armed and trained.U.S. President Donald Trump declared Monday that the United States was not taking sides in the internal conflict between Baghdad and independence-seeking Kurds, as Iraqi government forces captured the Kurdish-held oil city of Kirkuk.U.S.-led coalition military support for Iraqi and Kurdish forces was decisive during the most critical phases of the war against Daesh.It is unclear, in particular, how much influence the United States has with Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani after already failing to delay the independence referendum, in which the Kurds voted to secede.Former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, James Jeffrey, said he believed Iran, which backs Shiite Iraqi militias, was positioned to gain influence because of the Iraqi-Kurdish conflict.Trump unveiled last week a more aggressive U.S. approach to Iran, whose Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps backs the militias in Iraq.
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