March 10, 2009WASHINGTON — The Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq has been moving toward a military confrontation with the government in Baghdad, a report said.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies said the Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq appeared to be expanding south in a move that has alarmed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki.
In a report by former U.S. Defense Department official Anthony Cordesman, CSIS asserted that rising Kurdish-Arab tensions already blocked elections in four provinces in January 2009."The Kurds have shown an interest in controlling parts of the greater Mosul area and towns as far south as Sinjar," the report said. "There is a serious and potentially violent struggle for the control of Kirkuk and the oil fields around it, and for cities in Diyala like Khanqin and Jalawa.
This threatens to both divided the ISF [Iraqi security forces] along Kurdish and Arab lines, and weaken ISF efforts to fully defeat Al Qaida in Iraq."Titled "How Soon is Safe: Iraqi Force Development and Conditions-based U.S. Withdrawals," the report outlined the growing Kurdish threat to Iraqi stability.
Cordesman said the Kurdish-Arab confrontation could supersede the Al Qaida threat amid the struggle over control of the oil-rich region of Kirkuk."As yet, there is no agreed dividing line between Kurdish areas of control and the control of the central government," the report said.
"The Kurdish police force, and its Peshmerga militia, often operate independently of the Iraqi Ministries and beyond [U.S.-led coalition] MNSTC-I's advisory effort."The report said two of the Iraq Army's 10 division are "effectively Kurdish."
Another two divisions have been formed out of Kurdish security forces based in northern Iraq.
Moreover, Kurdish units in the Iraq Army were refusing orders from Baghdad. In August 2008, at least one Kurdish brigade in the Diyala province — the Peshmerga 34th Garmiyan Brigade — refused orders from the central government and said it would only honor directives from KRG.
KRG receives about 17 percent of the state budget from Baghdad."The Kurdish expansion of control outside of the KRG zone has alarmed many Iraqi Arabs and U.S. officials," the report said.
So far, KRG operates a military, police and security force — which total 100,000 — separate from the Interior Ministry in Baghdad. The report said the Kurds also procure weapons independent of the central government. In September 2008, a large shipment of small arms and ammunition arrived in Suleimaniya for KRG, a move that triggered protests from Baghdad.
The report said two rival political movements control separate elements of the Kurdish security forces. The PUK was said to be better trained and equipped than the rival KDP."The disposition, equipment levels, and training of the forces under the KRG remain unclear," the report said. "However, unofficial reports from U.S. military sources indicate that, in the PUK area at least, the Peshmerga have been organized into a brigade-centric infantry force with some armor and artillery and support units."