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 Multi-National Intervention as a Solution for the Kirkuk Impasse

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Multi-National Intervention as a Solution for the Kirkuk Impasse ‎ 8.7.2011 
By Saeed Kakeyi -

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July 8, 2011


Kirkuk—an oil-rich with vast agricultural lands—is one of the principal impasses to a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question in Iraq.

Geographically, the Kirkuk Region straddles the strategic trade routes between Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. However, it was the discovery of vast quantities of oil that led Great Britain, in 1926, to append Kirkuk and the former Ottoman Wilayet of Mosul (of which the Kirkuk region was a part) to the newly created state of Iraq. This new state, created in 1921, was under the Mandate of Great Britain. Ever since, and particularly after 1963, there have been continuous attempts by the central governments of Iraq to Arabize Kirkuk.

A geo-historical synopsis of the Kirkuk Governorate

The diamond-shaped Kirkuk region lies between the Zagros Mountains in                      

Saeed Kakeyi
the north-east, the Lower Zab and the Tigris Rivers in the north-west and west, the Hamrin mountain range in the south-west, and the Diyala (Sirwan) river in the south-east. This is the region and city known as Ara'pha to the ancient cultures and as Karkha d’beth Silokh to the classical world (Talabany: 2000, 7). To Sassanians, this was their governorate of Garmakân (Talabany: 2000, 7). By the medieval authors, the region was known as Garmiyân. This historic name still survives for the region in the common folk language, while the classical Seleucid name of Kirkuk is reserved for the city alone.

Major trade routes pass through or touch on the borders of the Kirkuk Region. To safeguard these commercial and strategic crossings, Ottoman military forts were established in the nearby cities of Kifri, Tuz-Khurmatu, Daquq, Perdé as well as within Kirkuk city itself. The city of Kirkuk has served the area as its major hub since the beginning of the 17th century (Talabany: 2000, 8).

Speaking of the city’s ethnic composition at the end of the 19th century, the Ottoman encyclopedic, Shamsadin Sami, states in his celebrated Qamusl al A’ala'm that “Three quarters of the inhabitants are Kurds and the rest are Turkmen, Arabs, and others. After visiting the city of Kirkuk, he estimated the population to be between 12 and 15 thousand, all Kurds except for 40 Armenian families (Talabany: 2000, 8).

During the years of conflict between the Shi’ite Safawid Empire and the Sunni Ottoman Empire, the Kirkuk region, and Kurdistan in general, became a constant battleground (Amin Zaki: 1961, 164). Kirkuk’s strategic location led to its changing hands many times and suffering a great deal of damage (Amin Zaki: 1961, 166).

C.J. Edmonds describes the administration of the Kirkuk region during the last phase of the Ottoman rule thus: “In the 18th century Kirkuk was the chief town of the Wilayet of Sharazur which included the modern [Iraqi] liwas of Kirkuk, Arbil and, nominally, of Suleimani under a mutassallim. With the reforms of Midhat Pasha, Wali of Baghdad from 1869 to 1872, the name of Sharazur was given to the sanjak of Kirkuk, corresponding to the present-day liwas of Kirkuk and Arbil, whereas the historic Sharazur remained outside, in the new sanjak of Suleimani. The Wilayet of Mosul was formed in 1879, and Kirkuk remained an important garrison town” (Edmonds: 1957, 6).

Under the renewed, direct, Ottoman rule the Wilayet of Mosul was divided into three governorates of Mosul, Kirkuk and Suleimani. Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, three districts (qada’) situated to the north of the Lower Zab River were detached from Kirkuk to form the governorate of Arbil. Under the Iraqi administration, in 1925, Kirkuk became a governorate comprised of the four districts of Kirkuk Central, Kifri, Chamchamal and Tuz-Khurmatu (Talabany: 2000, 9).

The Turkman population in the Kirkuk Governorate

To better control the area, the Ottomans encouraged their more loyal subjects and military personnel to settle in the cities and towns—of Tel Afar and Mosul in the north, Arbil, Kirkuk and Kifri in central north and Khanaqin and Mandali on the present Iraq-Iran borders—which dotted the trade routes in the Mosul Wilayet (Talabany: 2000, 11).

The Iraqi historian Abdul-Razzaq Al-Hassani asserts that the Turkmen of this inclined region are “a part of the forces of Sultan Murat IV who recaptured Iraq from the Safawid Persians in 1638 and remained in these parts to protect this route between the southern and northern Ottoman Wilayets” (Talabany: 2000, 11).

Many Turkman military personnel who settled permanently in the above mentioned cities subsequently engaged in commerce and other professions. The earliest traces of Iraqi Turkmen are, perhaps, to be found in the Turkman soldiers who served in the region under the flags of the Abbasid caliphs and, eventually, the Ottomans (Khasbak: 1973, 211). The Turkmen themselves maintain that they migrated to Iraq during the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates to lend their military talent to those dynasties.

Estimates of the number of Turkmen made public during the 1920s and 30s put them at 2.1% to 2.4% of the total population of Iraq (Ismail: 1993, 22). In the official Iraqi census of 1957 which is, until now, considered to be the only valid census, this approximate proportion was basically reconfirmed and the results revealed that Turkmen made up 2.16% of the total population (Talabany: 2000, 14) However, this percentage decreased in later censuses partly because the Iraqi regime deliberately muddled the ethnicity of the Turkmen and classed many of them as Arab. By the time of the 1977 census, the Turkman share of the Iraqi population was recorded as a mere 1.15 % of the total state population (Talabany: 2000, 14). The fall in percentages was recorded for Kirkuk as for the other governorates where Turkmen resided.

Relations between Kurds, Arabs and Turkmans

As a way of promoting Turkman dominance in the last years of Ottoman rule, the right to extract petroleum in a primitive way from the Baba-Gurgur oil fields near the city and to sell it for local consumption was granted to the Turkman family of Nafitchizada (Talabany: 2000, 17). Despite this, the Ottomans did not expel the Kurds from the city,
www.ekurd.netnor did they deny the ethnic make-up of the city as being one in which a Kurdish majority co-existed with Turkmen and other ethnic groups. Monarchical Iraq followed the same general policy, but they awarded sensitive positions, such as that of Provincial Governor or General in Command of Iraq’s Second Army Division stationed in Kirkuk, mostly to Arabs. This in turn encouraged many Arab families to migrate to Kirkuk region to be employed with the Iraqi Petroleum Company (IPC) early in the twentieth century (Talabany: 2000, 23).

Meanwhile, throughout the monarchical period, two-thirds of the members representing the Kirkuk governorate in the Iraqi Parliament were Kurds and the other one-third was Turkmen and only sometimes, during forty years of monarchical rule, was there one or two Arab representatives. This representation in the Iraqi Parliament reflected, to a great extent, the ethnic composition of the governorate before the policy of extensive Arabization began in the early 1960s (Talabany: 2000, 18).

In general, however, most cabinets of monarchical Iraq encouraged Arabs to settle in Kirkuk. For instance, the cabinet of Yasin Al-Hashimi in 1935 embarked on settling groups of the Arab Ubaid tribe in the Hawija district of Kirkuk (Talabany: 2000, 24). After the coming to power in Iraq of the Ba’ath Party in 1963, played a prominent role in the Iraqi government’s efforts to Arabize the city of Kirkuk, their descendants readily joined the Ba'ath party and were rewarded with sensitive civil service jobs.

Oil and the Arabization of Kirkuk

The City of Kirkuk has been known to have oil long before the Ottoman occupation of Kurdistan. However, since 1639, the Ottomans used primitive methods to extract it for local consumption (Talabany: 2000, 22). Nonetheless, the systematic and organized exploitation of the Kirkuk oil fields only began seven years after the British occupation of present-day Iraq in 1918. Whether or not the initial intention of the Colonial Britain in the aftermath of the World War I was to help the minorities of the defeated Ottoman Empire to establish their own nation-states, the discovery of enormous oil reserves in Kurdistan led to a fundamental change in British policy towards the Kurdish self-determination issue.

At first, there was a tendency among some British officers to favour the creation of a Kurdish state that would extend northward to Lake Van and southward along the ridges of Hamreen Mountains in current Iraq. Kurds were trying to persuade the Western countries to implement the terms of the Treaty of Sevres, signed on August 10, 1920. The Treaty stipulated the establishment of a Kurdish state in Ottoman Kurdistan. This was first proposed by Captain Noel, a British political officer who had traveled throughout Kurdistan. Then the policy changed to one of working actively for the annexation of the former Kurdish populated Ottoman Wilayet of Mosul to the newly established British Mandate of Iraq which, until then, was comprised of the former Wilayets of Baghdad and Basra alone (Talabany: 1999, 35).

The British Mandate authorities for Iraq and Kurdistan organized a referendum in 1921 on the accession of Emir Faisal bin Hussein as king of the new state of Iraq. The great majority of the people of the Kirkuk region rejected this proposal. Other Kurdish regions, such as the Suleimani, refused even to take part in the referendum. Kirkuk later became a part of the Iraqi kingdom when the League of Nations, at its 37th Assembly in Geneva, on December 16, 1924, decreed that all the land below the “Brussels Line” (the current Iraqi-Turkish border) should be incorporated into Iraq (Talabany: 2000, 20).

Later, however, successive Iraqi governments tried with varying degrees of intensity to change the ethnic character of the Kirkuk region and perpetually appointed Arabs to the key positions. From the outset, in co-operation with the British oil company operating in Kirkuk, the central government in Baghdad brought large numbers of workers from other parts of Iraq to work in the company and then to settle in the city. The company brought in a large number of skilled Arab and Assyrian workers from other parts of Iraq (Talabany: 2000, 21).

The establishment of the petroleum industry in Kirkuk brought about a significant change in the city’s social and ethnic character. The new neighbourhoods, near the oil company’s facilities, housed mostly Assyrians and Arabs. So, from the beginning, the Kurds felt resentful that, in spite of their numerical majority in the city and governorate of Kirkuk, so few of them were employed by the oil company. This influx of workers from other areas into the city marked the beginning of the process of Arabization there. Following this earliest example, the process of changing the ethnic character of Kirkuk became a permanent undertaking by all the subsequent governments that have ruled Iraq since the coup of February 8, 1963.

The resumption of the fighting in Kurdistan in June 1963 between the Kurdish Peshmerga Forces (freedom fighters) led by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Ba’athist pan-Arab Iraqi regime, with the aid of most Turkmen, intensified the Arabization of Kirkuk governorate and other Kurdish cities and towns in the governorates of Mosul, Arbil and Diyala. Among the many measures taken by the organizers of the February 1963 coup were: The deportation of Kurds, the destruction of their towns and villages, the demolition of their neighbourhoods in the city of Kirkuk with the consequent displacement of many, and the transfer of Kurdish civil servants and workers to southern and central Iraq. Accordingly, Arabization became a well-established policy of all Iraqi regimes from 1963 to 1968.

The Arabization of Kirkuk from 1968 to the 1991 Desert Storm

The Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party returned to power in a military coup on July 17, 1968. Leading Ba’athists were appointed as governors of Kirkuk and granted wide and extraordinary powers. Shortly after seizing power, the regime used the following measures to change the ethnic character of Kirkuk:

• Low-ranking civil servants, including Kurdish elementary and secondary schoolteachers, as well as workers in various government departments and in the oil company facilities, were transferred to areas outside the Kirkuk governorate and replaced with Arab civil servants and workers. Kurds were barred from ever returning there (Talabany: 2000, 35).

• The names of Kurdish neighbourhoods, streets, schools and markets were changed to Arabic names and the owners of commercial establishments were forced to adopt Arabic names for their businesses (Ali: 2008, 54).

• Wide streets were constructed in the Kurdish neighbourhoods with very laughable compensation. Then, Kurds were forbidden to sell their properties in Kirkuk except to Arabs, and were prevented from buying homes or renovating their existing homes and properties under any circumstances (Ali: 2008, 56).

• Fraudulent new lists of Arab newcomers were added to those of the 1957 census to give the impression that they had lived in Kirkuk since 1957 or earlier (Ali: 2008, 61).

• Various charges, threats and intimidations were applied against many Kurds to force them leave the city and then confiscate their homes and properties. Many Kurds were arrested, imprisoned and put to death by with neither charge nor trial (Ali: 2008, 66).

• New factories and government facilities were built in the southern outskirts of Kirkuk city and thousands of residential units were constructed only to be given to Arabs (Ali: 2008, 67).

All the area around Kirkuk and the oil fields and installations in the governorate was declared a military and security zone. The regime also detached four out the seven districts that had once belonged to the Kirkuk governorate and attached them to the neighbouring governorates in order to make the Kurds a minority there. Thus, the two exclusively Kurdish districts of Chamchamal and Kala'r were attached to the neighbouring Suleimani governorate, while the Kifri district, where the Kurds constitute a great majority, was attached to the Diyala governorate, and the Tuz-Khurmatu district with a Kurdish majority was attached to the distant Salahaddin (Tikrit) governorate. The main goal was to strip the Kirkuk governorate of these Kurdish districts, thereby ensuring that the Kurds become a minority there. In addition, the Iraqi regime had changed the name of the Kirkuk governorate to Al-Ta’mim (Arabic for “nationalization”) to seal the second phase of the Arabization. Moreover, the Iraqi regime not only brought Arab tribes from southern and central governorates to settle in the Kirkuk governorate, but it gave them agricultural land, granted them numerous privileges and armed them. It simultaneously destroyed hundreds of Kurdish villages and some counties where they were not suitable for settling Arab nomad tribes. Entire populations of these villages were placed in concentration camps in other counties, districts and governorates where they barely had the means to survive and were kept under constant surveillance by the security services. No one was allowed to enter or leave without official approval. These camps were a grim reminder of those run by the Nazis and fascists during the Second World War. They had all been given Arab names such as “Al-Sumud,” “Al-Quds,” and “Al-Qadissiyah,” (Talabany: 2000; Ali: 2008).

The Arabization of Kirkuk from 1991 to 2003

Following the 1991 mass Kurdish uprising in Iraq, the government forcibly expelled over 120,000 Kurds, Turkmen, and Assyrians from their homes in the region of Kirkuk and neighbouring towns and villages. Over the past twelve years, entire families belonging to these ethnic minorities have been obliged to relocate, leaving behind virtually all their possessions, properties, and means of livelihood. Most of them sought refuge in the provinces of Arbil and Suleimani controlled by the KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) respectively. A smaller number were relocated to government-controlled areas in central and southern Iraq. This systematic forcible transfer of Kurds and other was the last phase of the Arabization of Kirkuk region (OLeary: 2008, 2).

After the liberation of Iraq by the “coalition of the willing” nations—led by the United States—in 2003, many Kurds, Turkmen and Assyrians returned to Kirkuk hoping to gain back their confiscated homes and properties. Many of these people have been able to go back to their homes and properties left behind by the escaped Arab settlers. Others are still waiting to claim back their titles which are dependent on the disputed status of the region between the KRG and the newly established fragile government of Iraq.

In 2003, the US led Coalition Forces (CF) deposed the authoritarian regime of Saddam Hussein. Shortly thereafter, the US setup the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to engage in nation-building and reconstructing Iraq. While the CF was tasked to provide security to the people of Iraq on the one hand, and fight the emerging insurgency on the other hand, the CPA (May 2003-June 28 2004) was able to draw a peaceful resolution for the status of Kirkuk and the other disputed Kurdish areas. According to article 58 of its Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), the CPA recognized profound demographic and boundary manipulations by the Ba’athist regime which transgressed human rights, political rights and the rights of nationalities and ethnic minorities. It proposed measures to rectify these injustices “expeditiously”. However, the CPA and the subsequent Iraqi transitional government (June 28 2004-January 31 2005) failed to rectify the relevant injustices “expeditiously” on excuses of heightened insurgency and the regional interference on the one hand, and the questionable legitimacy of the TAL written by an internationally recognized occupation authority on the other (OLeary: 2008, 3).

To offset these arguments, the makers of Iraq’s permanent constitution—passed by an extraordinary voting referendum by the Iraqi people in October 2005—reemphasized the political status of the governorate of Kirkuk, and other disputed territories in Article 140 and scheduled them to be formally resolved by the end of December 2007. Despite little progress, unfortunately, the elected government of Iraq was not able solve the issue. Hence, the prospective referendum affecting the status of Kirkuk governorate was, by agreement, postponed for six months, until the summer of 2008 (OLeary: 2008, 1). The KRG and all Kurds within it ardently want to unify with the relevant disputed territories, either by political agreement or by violent means (Kurdistani Nwe: 2008).

For now, the constitutional obligation to fulfill Article 140 remains a constitutional imperative, and the KRG and the people of the Kurdistan Region are able to block any proposed amendment to Iraq’s constitution, which would modify Article 140. Furthermore, Kurds are capable of blocking any unconstitutional mechanisms that may jeopardize their position on Kirkuk. For instance, as the Iraqi Council of Representatives (ICR) passed the Provincial Elections Law (PEL) on 22 July, 2008, thereby weakening the Kurdish stand on the status of Kirkuk, the very next day, President Jalal Talabani—a Kurd—and his Vice President Adil Abdil-Mahdi—an Arab Shi’ite—both vetoed the PEL as unconstitutional. Then, after a week of heated debate in the ICR over amending the PEL, the Iraqi lawmakers were not able to get a consensus over the issue and agreed to postpone it to their next parliamentary season to start in September 2008.

At this turning point in the historical making of Iraq, what is happening behind the scene? From a Kurdish perspective, Kirkuk and their other disputed territories are the principle demands for the making of their “unique” national identity within the state of Iraq. Throughout their modern Iraqi history, Kurds have been engaging in on-again off-again fighting with the consecutive governments of Iraq, mainly, because of their consistent claim to Kirkuk’s Kurdistani identity; and, therefore, their rights to govern it and have an equal share of its oil-rich resources with the rest of Iraq. In contrast, Iraq with the rest of the regional powers, especially Turkey, Iran and Syria, fear that honouring the Kurds the title of governing Kirkuk and the other oil-rich territories would empower them to establish their independent Kurdish state.

Although the Kurds have all the rights to declare their independent state, they have not done so. The geopolitics of the Middle East would not allow the development of a Kurdish state for as long as the authoritarian mindset is the dominant decision-making in the region. The Kurds do recognize this dilemma very well. Hence, claims of Kurdish independent drive conspiracy in the region are unfounded. Rather, all they want is the reversal of the Arabization policies of Baghdad and their constitutional rights to govern themselves within the federal state of Iraq. Also, Kurds, indeed, do not want to cause more interstate wars—let along the intrastate fights--for Iraq. In fact, they have been active in reminding the seasonal new Iraqi politicians that Iraq’s eight years of war with Iran (1980-1988) was, indirectly, a consequence for not agreeing with the Kurds in 1974 on the status of Kirkuk and the other disputed territories (Kurdistani New: 2008).

Unfortunately, however, amateur Iraqi politicians, motivated by the agendas of the regional powers, are driving Iraq yet for another catastrophic situation. In their alliance with the former Ba’athist lawmakers in the ICR, these radical lawmakers—Shi’ites and Sunni Arabs—are setting Iraq for an ongoing devastations and a regional turmoil by not acting according to their constitutional obligations. To add more to the dilemma, the US government, under domestic and regional pressures, is not playing its powerbroker role in Iraq. Instead, it has left the Kirkuk impasse to inexperienced diplomats coupled with low ranking military officers working in Baghdad to handle it with much carelessness and ill-thoughts of non-interference.

The Peshmarga forces—heavily participated in the US “Surge” to bring security to the quarters of Baghdad and northern areas of the Diyala Province in 2007—have been disgracefully asked by newly formed Iraq Security Forces (ISF) led by former Ba’athist officers to retreat to Kurdistan Region. Moreover, these officers are also trying to instigate troubles with Kurdish authorities by sending their troops to the trouble-free Kurdish towns and villages in order to exacerbate the politically charged situation in the disputed territories of Khanaqeen near the Iraqi central eastern borders with Iran (Kurdistani Nwe: 2008). The issuance of 24 hours of notice to the 34th Brigade of the Peshmarga forces to leave its area of operation on August 10, 2008, is a clear demonstration for the ill wishes of Iraq’s Nuri Al-Maliki government. This in turn triggered the KRG to retreat its Peshmargas from the town of Jalawla (30 kilometers southwest of Khanaqeen) and position them in the town of Khanaqeen with three extra brigades of Peshmargas brought from elsewhere ready to engage the IA in any minute.

The least to say about these ISF trouble instigations is that another US betrayal of the Kurds is just around the corner. The uncalculated aerial, logistical and advisory support that the 1st and the 5th Iraqi Army (IA) divisions are getting from the US army for their insurgency fights in the province of Diyala is backfiring. Instead of eradicating the insurgency in other parts of Diyala, Nuri Al-Maliki’s government is trying to arm twist the Kurds with the US military backing.

What is the next facing the Kurds?

In light of the developments in the Diyala province, the KRG is preparing to have a possible show down in the disputed territories of Mosul, if the Al-Maliki government repeats its miscalculated actions while getting ready to deploy more IA forces to the Mosul area early in October, 2008. Moreover, if the heightening tensions between the KRG and the Al-Maliki government do not subside; and, if the international community does not actively engage in the negotiations over the implementation of the Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution relating to the Kirkuk and the other disputed regions by the end of 2008, then a spoiled armed conflict would be inevitable.

Turkey has been itching to see the downfall of the KRG. Its military leaders, also known as the “deep-state actors,” would love to claim victory over Kurdish aspirations for. However, attacking the KRG forces under the pretext of securing Turkey’s national interests would certainly diminish Turkey’s chances to join the European Union.

Iran’s ambition to dominate the Persian Gulf region requires the US withdrawal not only from Iraq, but also from the entire Arab Gulf states. To achieve this goal, the nuclear ambitious Iran would not hesitate in fully supporting the Iraqi Shi’ite government’s actions against the Kurds.

Finally, Syria would love to support Iraq against the Kurds in exchange for a greater Ba’athist influence over the Iraqi Sunni population. Inevitably, Israel’s position in the region would be weakened; and the national interests of the United States in the Middle East would face enormous challenges, particularly by the growing Islamic radical trends. Moreover, such foreseeable scenario would position China as well as Russia to have greater influences over politics in the Middle East. Last but not the least, the American democratization of the Middle East and North Africa would be kissed goodbye.

How to prevent this scenario from happening?

Since Iraq is still under the US occupation, it is the responsibility of the United States to make sure that Iraq is building its democratic institutions throughout its transitional developing phases. Although Iraq has passed the dangers of outright civil war just recently, it has a long way to go from slipping back into the hands of the former Ba’athist Generals who are now commanding the IA operations throughout Iraq.

The US government needs to understand that the Iraqi military segment has been deeply amerced in the culture of instigating troubles and government overthrowing. In fact, since 1941, IA Generals have been involved in at least ten coup d'états with five successful ones. Therefore, it is critical not let the Iraqi force generation and force moderation processes be solely handled by the US and Iraqi army generals. Civilians from both sides must involve in such strategic planning.

The Iraqi Ground Forces Command (IGFC) leads 14 divisions manned by 264,000 soldiers. Only 2.5% of this force is of Kurdish origin (Kurdistani New: 2008). Compared to the 23% of Kurdish population in Iraq, this low percentage raises real fears with Kurdish elites who are challenged to keep their lightly armed 100,000 Peshmergas, let along training and modernizing them. In generating forces, the US diplomats and army planners in Iraq should have decentralized the IGFC by setting up three regional commands: one in the North to lead 60,000 Peshmergas, one in the center to lead 60,000 Sunni Arab soldiers, and one in the south to command 150,000 Shiite Arab soldiers. This initial separate diversification of the IGFC would, in the long run, create professional soldiers and eliminate any chances or attempts to grab power by undemocratic means. In addition, the Al-Maliki government critically needs to generate ethnically diverse forces to operate in the disputed areas with joint Iraqi and Kurdish command. Such need will ease the primordial animosities between the IA and the Peshmerga leaderships.

In reorganizing and diversifying the IA into three regional commands, the Al-Maliki government would be saved from pitfalls of victory sensations—been enjoyed in recent months—due to the defeat of the elusive insurgency. In so doing, the Al-Maliki government would have a better chance to demonstrate its wiliness to meet the constitutional obligations toward the Kurds. In contrast, if Article 140 remains at impasse, then Al-Maliki government needs to layout its best alternative solution that would be negotiable by the KRG. Respectively, the US government as well as the UN needs to “step in and propose a solution that addresses all sides’ core concerns without crossing their existential red lines” (ICG: 2006). For example, the reversal of all Arabization abuses by previous regimes in the disputed areas so their population can decide either to join the KRG or remain within their repective governorates; an equitable federated “city-power-sharing” limited to the boundaries of the City of Kirkuk; and the accession of former Kirkuk districts—where Kurds constituted the majority of the population according to the 1957 census—by the KRG.

Regionally, the US needs to exert more pressure on Turkey not to interfere in Iraq’s internal affairs, especially with regard to the Kirkuk issue. Also, the US needs to deploy some of its forces along the Turkish-KRG borders for two reasons: Confidence building measures between the Turkish troops and the Kurdish Peshmergas on the one hand, and to deny any cross-border insurgent activities on the other hand. This in turn will help the Turkish authorities to accept the legitimacy of the KRG and considerably reduce Kurdish animosities on both sides of the border toward the Turkey. Furthermore, the US government needs to work harder in its isolation policies toward Iran and Syria. A regionally contained Iran and Syria will ensure greater stability in the Middle East. Isolating Iran and Syria with coercive diplomacy will lead to a successful and stable democratic Iraq. The US government needs to moderate and train the Peshmerga forces to prevent Iranian intelligence penetrations into the KRG in route to other governorates of Iraq to support radical insurgent elements.

Failure by the US and the UN to act decisively could well lead to a rapid deterioration of the already charged situation. The result would be violent intrastate conflict, spreading civil war and, possibly, regional military intervention. It is doubtful that the post-2003 Iraq would survive yet another major bloodshed in oil-rich areas where large Iraqi diverse communities do live.

In the event of all-out regional war, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) must intervene and play a dominant role in forming a Multi-National Military Force (MNMF) to sanction the warring parties. However, if sanctioning proves to be ineffective, the use of force must become an option to stop the belligerent parties. Simultaneously, the MNMF has to intervene in the Iraqi intrastate war by segregating the Kirkuk city and establishing buffer zones between the warring factions. Once that achieved, the UNSC has to form a non-bias fact-finding mission to determine a best course of action for the status of Kirkuk. After establishing security to protect the civilians, the MNMF has to develop a binding three phase resolution plan.

The first phase should have a short-term plan by which institutional capacity building has to take place in order to establish rule-of-law. The second phase should have a transitional med-term plan for initiating economic and political developments to the satisfaction of the contending parties. The last phase should sustain and improve the achievements gained through the previous phases where all sides recognize the criticality of cooperation and democratic means to manage their communal affairs peacefully and harmonically.


This paper attempted to provide a historical background for the Arabization of Kirkuk and the other disputed regions between the post-2003 Iraqi government and the KRG. The author suggests that in the event of an impasse over the implementation of Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution, parties to the issue must explore acceptable alternatives rather than resorting to fight. Also, in the event of possible war, the paper suggests that the United States and the international community must work together to contain it and eventually stop it by means of negotiation and capacity building measures.

1. Ali, Burhan, The deportation of Kurds and the Arabization of Kirkuk in the Ba’ath documents. Suleimani: University of Suleimani, 2008.
2. Amin Zaki, Muhammad. A Brief History of Kurds and Kurdistan. Arabic trans. Muhammad Ali Awni, (2nd Ed.) Baghdad: Baghdad House, 1961.
3. Edmonds, C.J., Kurds, Turks and Arabs: Politics, Travel and Research in North Eastern Iraq, 1919-1925. Oxford: Oxford Press, 1957.
4. Ismail, Khalil. The geographic distribution of the Turkmans in Iraq. The International Politics Journal, No. 8, Arbil, 1993, p. 22.
5. Khesbak, Shaker, Northern Iraq. Baghdad: Shafiq Publishing, 1973.
6. Kurdistani Nwe Daily Newspaper, issues No. 3451, 3453, 3456: August 11, 13, 16, 2008. Suleimani: PUK Central Media Publishing.
7. OLeary, B. and Bateman, D., “Article 140: Iraq’s Constitution, Kirkuk and the Disputed Territories,” Paper for the Conference at Rayburn House, Washington D.C. May 9 2008.
8. Talabany, Nouri. The Kurdish Question and International Law: Perspectives of Southern Kurdistan in a Regional and Supraregional Context. Berlin: The Centre for Kurdish Studies in Germany, 1999.
9. Talabany, Nouri. The Arabization of the Kirkuk Region (2nd Ed.) London: 2000.

This article has been written by Saeed Kakeyi in June 15, 2008

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