Thursday, April 05, 2007

Kirkuk


I am saddened to read that the one place in Iraq we've been touting as the model of stability, the Kurdish region in the north, is likely to become a whole lot less stable. The issue is Kirkuk, as the Kurds look to incorporate it into Kurdistan. From the report:
The city of Kirkuk may become a new source of instability in Iraq. The multi-ethnic city is contested between its Arab and Turkmen inhabitants, on one hand, who wish to remain united with Iraq; and its Kurdish majority, that wishes to affiliate Kirkuk with Kurdistan. The Kurdish argument is that Kirkuk is a historic part of Kurdistan that was excised from the province by previous Iraqi governments.

Non-Kurdish inhabitants have warned in the past that attempts to “separate” Kirkuk from Iraq will cause violence, and possibly ethnic cleansing. Turkey has also spoken against oil-rich Kirkuk joining Kurdistan, citing the rights of the Turkmen population of the city.

All of this discussion will become louder and perhaps more violent as we approach the referendum later this year.
Kurdish parties, however, insist on the application of the 140th article of the Iraqi constitution, which calls, among other things, for a census and a referendum that would determine the status of Kirkuk. The referendum is due by the end of 2007.
I don't know about you, but I'm betting there's a pretty strong contingent of non-Kurdish residents who don't want to leave. Already there's talk of luring the arabs out of the city via financial incentive. I can only imagine what will happen to those who decide to stay.

I think we can safely assume that this will mark the opening of a new front in Iraq's civil war. And maybe, just maybe, the mystery of Iran's interest in the Kurds is a little more apparent. It would seem a mighty convenient time to rekindle their relationship on the basis of shared interests against the Sunni arabs (the first time having been during the Iran-Iraq war).

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