Crisis in Kirkuk: The Ethnopolitics of Conflict and Compromise

Crisis in Kirkuk: The Ethnopolitics of Conflict and Compromise

Crisis in Kirkuk: The Ethnopolitics of Conflict and Compromise

Crisis in Kirkuk: The Ethnopolitics of Conflict and Compromise

Synopsis

Despite dramatic improvements in the security environment in most parts of Iraq, still unresolved are many core political issues, foremost of which is the conflict over the city and region of Kirkuk. With immense oil reserves and a diverse population of Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmens, Kirkuk in recent history has been scarred by interethnic violence and state-sponsored ethnic cleansing. Throughout the twentieth century, successive Arab Iraqi governments engaged in a brutal campaign to increase Kirkuk's Arab population at the expense of Kurds and Turkmens. Following the invasion of Iraq in 2003, a newly empowered Kurdish leadership has sought to reverse the effects of the Arabization campaign and to hold a referendum on incorporating Kirkuk into the Kurdistan Region. The Kurds' efforts are, however, strongly opposed by Kirkuk's Turkmens, Arabs, and also most states in the region.

In "Crisis in Kirkuk," Liam Anderson and Gareth Stansfield offer a dispassionate analysis of one of Iraq's most pressing and unresolved problems. Drawing on extensive research and fieldwork, the authors investigate the claims to ownership made by each of Kirkuk's competing communities. They consider the constitutional mechanisms put in place to address the issue and the problems that have plagued their implementation. The book concludes with an assessment of the measures needed to resolve the crisis in Kirkuk, stressing that finding a compromise acceptable to all sides is vital to the future stability of Iraq.

Excerpt

Iraq has witnessed many dates of significance in recent years. Following the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent overthrow of the Ba’th regime, events in Iraq have dominated the attention of the world’s media, and rarely a day has passed that did not experience some momentous or bloody occurrence. Compared with many previous months, however, July 2008 was quiet. Certainly, political arguments continued to rage in Baghdad among different political factions, and the security situation, while considerably better than in previous years, still remained a cause for concern. Controversial issues remained unresolved, and actions taken by the Iraqi government continued to gain as many, if not more, detractors than supporters. Such actions included the ongoing security push against rogue Sunni and Shi’i elements (namely those Sunni tribes capable of challenging the government, and the Shi’i jaish al-Mahdi militia of Muqtada al-Sadr); the tense negotiations with the US government over a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and a wider Strategic Agreement, as well as the grueling political struggle between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Iraqi government’s Ministry of Oil over the interpretation of the constitution’s provisions for the management of Iraq’s oil reserves also served to divide opinion within the government and across the country at large. However, compared to the rest of the period since 2003, July 2008 did not grip the attention of the world’s media.

Perhaps it should have. While there were some indications of a degree of normalcy returning to Iraq following the surge of US forces over preceding months, combined with a degree of optimism in the media in general that Iraq had, at last, turned a corner, the unresolved question concerning the future of the city and province of Kirkuk took on new importance in July 2008. As a city divided among different ethnic groups—Kurds, Turkmens, and Arabs (with a smaller Christian community)—and with groups clinging to mutually incompatible visions of . . .

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