Friday, September 05, 2014

Kirkuk Future Postponed

I don't remember if I said it on this blog or not, but back in June, I speculated that the biggest long-term consequence of ISIS seizing Mosul would be the Kurds seizing Kirkuk and probably pushing for statehood.  Enough has happened since then that the view is clearly wrong.  Even in Kirkuk, ISIS remains the priority:
Talk of the city's future stopped in light of events, until Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, on June 30 called for a referendum on the annexation of Kirkuk, sparking angry reactions in the Iraqi capital. Ultimately, however, Barzani's statement was also put on the back burner, after IS sparked a larger confrontation with the peshmerga on the Nineveh plains and threatened Erbil, prompting US and international military intervention.
After that, the convulsive rhetoric between Baghdad and Erbil changed. The different tone coincided with the appointment of Haider al-Abadi as prime minister-designate, and military cooperation between the peshmerga and Iraqi forces. This cooperation resulted in advances on a number of fronts, and in particular, led to taking control of the town of Amerli, south of Kirkuk, and then moving to open the Kirkuk-Baghdad highway...
Although the Turkmen prefer for Kirkuk to be an autonomous region, they too have view the picture from a different angle today with IS in the picture. According to Hussein, "The best solution is for Kirkuk to be an autonomous region. Given that Kurds comprise a majority, they would have an upper hand in the administration, alongside the Arabs and Turkmen, for at least around 10 years. Later on, the issue of its fate could be raised again. Yet currently the situation of Kirkuk is very sensitive, so we can't discuss the issue. The enemy is just 15 kilometers from the city center, and any mistake or misunderstanding would mean no Kirkuk or its fate to discuss."
None of the Kirkuk Arab politicians who spoke to Al-Monitor touched on the issue of the city's fate, the magnitude of the current crises superseding specifying a position on Article 140. Mohammed Khalil al-Jubouri, head of the Arab group in the Kirkuk Provincial Council, issued a statement Aug. 29 calling for the formation of a special force that would include the city's minorities to expel IS from Kirkuk's eastern and southern regions. "The Arab tribes of Hawija and al-Dibs confirmed their opposition to the organization [led by Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi. They formed forces to fight it, and must be aided and supported militarily and logistically," he said.

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