jeudi 5 mars 2009

Kerkuk Council Member Predicts Permanent US Base in Kerkuk

Juan Cole's Comment

al-Zaman reports in Arabic that the arrival of United Nations counselors in Kirkuk with an aim of compiling a list of 'original' inhabitants of the city has provoked a wave of assassinations in the disputed city.

Meanwhile, the Kurdistan Alliance renewed its call for Article 140 of the constitution to be implemented (i.e. for a referendum to be held in Kirkuk Province on whether it should join the Kurdistan Regional Government.

It is thought that the Kurds, who control the security forces, have flooded other Kurds into the province, such that they are now about half of its population.

The other two major groups are the Arabs and Turkmen. They typically oppose the plan to join Kurdistan. Jala Naftji, a Turkmen member of the Kirkuk governing council, told Al-Zaman that he had been afraid of an increasing security vacuum in the province, but has been reassured since Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki sent an Iraqi Army unit up. He also expected that an enduring US base would be established in the city of Kirkuk.

He said that in the last meeting of the governing council with Gen. Ray Odierno, the latter had pledged that the US would not give up the security mission before the Kirkuk issue was resolved. The deputy governor of Kirkuk, Rakan Said al-Juburi, told the paper, "If there is not a joint administration [of Kirkuk Province] and balance throughout the security agencies among the various ethnicities in order to resolve the complicated problem of Kirkuk, I believe that conflict with break out once the Americans withdraw."

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