Najmaldin Karim, Kirkuk governor, has said he will not be returning to the city that elected him in 2011 and 2014 because it is too dangerous.
In an interview with Bloomberg on Wednesday, he said he fled his home on Tuesday in the early evening and has no plans at the moment to return.
"If I go back, my life is in danger," he said. "Even the night when all this happened, I had to maneuver carefully to go to safety."
Karim noted, "Last night Shiite militias raided Kurdish neighborhoods, and today thousands are leaving. They beat up people. This was all from the Shiite militias.”
Karim, like many Kurdish leaders, says the Iraqi army acted this week as a cat's paw of Iran.
Iran has played a role in the events of the last 72 hours. This is where the chief of Iran's notorious Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, comes in.
On Sunday, Soleimani cut a deal with the widow and nephews of Jalal Talabani, the recently deceased leader of Masoud Barzani's rival party, the
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
"They reached an understanding for Peshmerga commanders to not participate in the fight when Iraqi forces came into Kirkuk," Karim, who is a senior member of the PUK, said.
"The day before the attack, Talibani's eldest son, Bafel, and his nephew Lahur and his older brother Araz came to Kirkuk and met with Soleimani's representative there. He gave an ultimatum, you either give up your positions or we will attack you."
Soleimani's sneaky diplomacy has divided the Kurds just as they came closest to reaching their dream of an independent state.
Meanwhile, the situation for the Kurds keeps getting worse. Iran has closed its border with the Kurdistan region.
The Turks are threatening to close the border as well, and have cut off bank access to the government in Erbil.
"We will return to Kirkuk one day, I am not sure when, but we will return," Karim added.