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 Iraqi forces head for Kirkuk to strengthen military deployment

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Iraqi forces head for Kirkuk to strengthen military deployment  20.11.2012 

Photo: Military See Related Articles
November 20, 2012

KIRKUK, Iraq's border with Kurdistan region,— A force from the 9th division of the Iraqi army in Baghdad crossed Hamrin Mountains heading for Kirkuk to strengthen their military deployment as part of the security tension between Baghdad and Erbil, a military source said on Tuesday.

"Top military officers ordered the armored force from the 9th division of the army in Baghdad to head for Kirkuk," the source told Aswat al-Iraq news agency, denying to give further details about the nature of their mission.

Tensions have been building between the autonomous Kurdish region and the central government in Baghdad since the departure of US forces from Iraq in December, which removed a buffer between the two sides.

Relations have been strained further by the formation of a new command center for Iraqi forces to operate in an area over which both Baghdad and the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) claim jurisdiction.

Military movements from Baghdad and Tikrit to Tuz area

Iraqi military forces stationed in Tikrit province moved to Toz area, while another armored force moved from Baghdad to the same area, to enhance security situation, according to military sources. The source told Aswat al-Iraq today that Tuz area witnessed security tensions during the last few days.

Attempts were made yesterday to pacify the situation to prevent development to greater conflict in the disputed areas between Baghdad and Erbil.

Tuz Khurmatu, on Friday witnessed fierce clashes between Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Iraqi Tigris (Dijla) Operations Command TOC troops, during which Two people were killed and 10 others wounded.

The clashes erupted in Tuz Khurmatu district in Salahuddin province when Iraqi soldiers attempted to search a house belonging to a Kurdish official Goran Najam, a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan PUK, officials said. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is the current leader of the PUK, Reuters reported.

The president of Kurdistan region, Massoud Barzani, said earlier that the formation of the Tigris Operations Command is an important reason for the instability and does not serve the application of Article 140 of the Constitution, adding that Tigris operations command was founded in the intentions and goals against the Kurds and coexistence in the disputed areas.

While Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki stressed that "the movement of the Iraqi army must be free on every inch of the land of Iraq, and provinces or territory have no right to object", describing the movement of the Peshmerga in the disputed areas as "legal and a constitutional violation."

Maliki said that the formation of the Tigris Operations Command "is not aimed at a component or a province or national but it is administrative and regulatory action within the constitutional powers."

Barzani ordered its Peshmerga security forces on high alert, a statement issued on Saturday said, attributing the move to clashes with central government forces. An Iraqi general however said that the clashes in question came during an arrest attempt and did not involve the Peshmerga.

Also Massoud Barzani said Saturday the region was fully prepared to defend itself, after a skirmish between Iraqi forces and Kurdish troops along their disputed internal border.

The oil-rich province of Kirkuk is one of the most disputed areas by the regional government and the Iraqi government in Baghdad.

The Kurds are seeking to integrate the province into the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region clamming it to be historically a Kurdish city, it lies just south border of the Kurdistan autonomous region, the population is a mix of majority Kurds and minority of Arabs, Christians and Turkmen, lies 250 km northeast of Baghdad.
Kurds have a strong cultural and emotional attachment to Kirkuk, which they call "the Kurdish Jerusalem." Kurds see it as the rightful and perfect capital of an autonomous Kurdistan state.

Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution is related to the normalization of the situation in Kirkuk city and other disputed areas through having back its Kurdish inhabitants and repatriating the Arabs relocated in the city during the former regime’s time to their original provinces in central and southern Iraq.

The article also calls for conducting a census to be followed by a referendum to let the inhabitants decide whether they would like Kirkuk to be annexed to the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region or having it as an independent province.

The former regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had forced over 250,000 Kurdish residents to give up their homes to Arabs in the 1970s, to "Arabize" the city and the region's oil industry.

The last ethnic-breakdown census in Iraq was conducted in 1957, well before Saddam began his program to move Arabs to Kirkuk. That count showed 178,000 Kurds, 48,000 Turkomen, 43,000 Arabs and 10,000 Assyrian-Chaldean Christians living in the city. 

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