Kurdish Kirkuk

The Future of Tamin Province and the Future of Iraq,” by Spencer Ackerman, Iraq’d, http://www.tnr.com/blog/iraqd?pid=2501, 20 January 2005.

Great, great, great news out of Iraq.

One of the tragedies of Ba’athi rule was the ongoing ethnic cleansing programs instituted by Saddam. Ancient cities, including the Kurdish city of Kirkuk, were cleared of Kurds are “Arabized.” In great, great, great news, the Iraqi government has announced that Kurds returning to Kirkuk can vote in the upcoming elections.

This all but guarantees the Kirkuk will eventually be the capital city of a future Kurdistan

THE FUTURE OF TAMIM PROVINCE AND THE FUTURE OF IRAQ: It’s looking more and more like the most important election on January 30 won’t be the one that determines control of Baghdad. It’ll be the one that determines who controls the northern province of Tamim. And a decision by the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq makes that a foregone conclusion.

Tamim is the province that contains the multiethnic and oil-rich city of Kirkuk, which is claimed by Arabs, Turkmen and especially Kurds. The province has a population of about 1.2 million people, split roughly evenly between Arabs and Kurds. That equivalence, however, is in no small measure the result of Saddam Hussein’s genocide of the Kurds, which encouraged Arabs to move into formerly Kurdish areas. The Kurdish leadership, which routinely refers to Kirkuk as the Jerusalem of the Kurdish people, has as a first-tier objective the control of the city.

Control of the city is tied up in control of Tamim province. Since the invasion of Iraq, a delicate ethnic balance has held over the 40-seat provincial council: Fifteen seats have gone to the Kurds, eleven to Arabs, nine to Turkmen, and seven to Christians, with the remainder distributed amongst smaller factions. But also since the invasion, tens of thousands of Kurdish refugees have been returning to Kirkuk and the surrounding areas; in several cases, returning Kurds have in turn created Arab refugees. The electoral status of these refugees has been in question for months. Recently, the Kurdish leadership threatened to boycott the provincial election entirely unless their refugees were enfranchised in Tamim. This caused no end of bitterness among Kirkuk’s Turkmen and Arabs.

On Saturday, the Iraqi electoral commission, apparently deciding that the risk of a Kurdish boycott was unacceptable, announced a deal allowing up to 100,000 Kurdish refugees to vote in Tamim province. The deal effectively guarantees that the Kurds will dominate the Tamim council and the prized city it contains. And that, in turn, has massive implications for the future of Iraq: Under the Transitional Administrative Law, the final status of Kirkuk–that is, whether it is or isn’t part of Kurdistan–will be determined after the ratification of a permanent constitution and the holding of a census in the province and the city. That census is now guaranteed to show a Kurdish majority. As George Packer recently wrote in The New Yorker, what comes next is “a foregone conclusion”:

[T]he province of [Tamim] will vote to join the autonomous region of Kurdistan, and the city will go with it.

The article goes on with typically inane warnings of a civil war. There is a civil war on, now. Denying there is one, and preventing pro-democracy forces from achieving there due, is little more than pro-insurgent appeasement.

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