Iraq Heading For A New Eruption?

A stalemate over planning for local elections and the deployment of a special  Iraqi unit have raised fears of escalation in Kirkuk, reports Karim Abed Zayer: Maliki Deploys ‘Tigris Force’ to Kirkuk.

the Kurdish parties organized a demonstration in Kirkuk  against what they described as the militarization of civil society and the  deployment of the Tigris forces, formed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in  Kirkuk.

Meanwhile, political sources inside Kirkuk told Azzaman that  Kirkuk’s population is living in terror, fearing the outbreak of armed clashes  between the Tigris forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Asaish forces.

The sources said that dozens of foreign companies, especially Turkish ones,  have suspended their activities and closed their doors because of the security  situation. They said that the city’s trade activities are experiencing a  downfall.

The sources explained that the North Oil Company (NOC), which is composed of  Kurdish elements, has upped the level of surveillance on oil wells and NOC  department buildings in Kirkuk for fear of attack on the part of the Tigris  forces, but the sources said that oil production is still  normal.

The sources pointed that the Tigris forces are still receiving weaponry  reinforcements, as arms continue to flow to the Kurdish Peshmerga and Asaish  forces.

They added that the Tigris forces, whose camps are only 15 km away from the  center of Kirkuk, are moving southwest and northwest. The Peshmerga and the  Asaish, however, are moving northeast of Kirkuk as the security forces beef up  their presence in the city center.

Kirkuk’s Arabs support handing over the security issue to the Tigris forces.  For their part, the city’s Kurds are against such step, and the Turkmen express  reservations.

The sources said that the conflicting parties are trying to strengthen their  military and security control ahead of the local elections, a date that,  according to the people, will witness the start of a war.

It’s been four years since we were told that the Iraq “surge” was a success, even though many at the time said it had failed to touch the underlying fracture lines in Iraqi society, the emnities between Kurds and Arabs, and between Sunni and Shiite,  instead simply wallpapering over those problems long enough to call it a win and get out.  Iraq has remained a violent nation on a scale that might frighten an inhabitant of 70’s Beirut, partly fuelled by grudges caused by at least 162,000 deaths since 2003. Yet there has not been a breakout into a new phase of open civil war.

That may change. Added to the old resentments in areas like Kirkuk, the Syrian sectarian Sunni/Shia civil war across the border (where Kurds too see themselves as victims but also with opportunities to seize)  and a new period of Turkish aggressiveness could yet cause the Iraqi pot to boil over. If so, we’d see an extension of an arc of insatbility that encompasses Afghanistan too, inviting the regional power players – Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia – as well as boththe West and Russia to be tempted to intervene. Interesting times. We should all hope Iraqis succeed in kicking the can down the road once more, and staving off a new civil war while they try to find negotiated solutions and let time do a little healing.

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Steve Hynd

Most recently I was Editor in Chief of The Agonist from Feb 2012 to Feb 2013. My blogging began at Newshoggers and I’ve had the immense pleasure of working with some great writers there and around the web ever since, including at Crooks & Liars. I'm a late 40′s, Scottish ex-pat, now married to a wonderful Texan, with Honours in Philosophy from Univ. of Stirling, UK 1986. I worked most of life in business insurance industry (fire, accident, liability) including 12 years as a broker/underwriter/correspondent at Lloyd’s of London. Being from the other side of the pond, my political interests tend to focus on how US foreign policy affects the rest of the planet. Other interests include early and dark-ages British history, literature and cognitive philosophy/science.

6 CommentsLeave a comment

    • Are you trying to troll me JPD? I’d much rather hear your well-informed opinion about the possibility of the Iraqis managing to arrange another bullet dodging. You’ve read my opinions often enough over the years to know I never expected the US to rewrite Iraqi society and never thought it was the US’s job to deliver in any case – I’m a firm believer in the old-fashioned version of the Pottery Barn rule which is “you broke it, pay up and get the f**k out of our store before you cause more damage! It’s up to the store owners whether they fix it or f**k it up further, not you!”. You also know that I think painting what actually occured as a success worth the name is stetching the term too far, and over the years (since what, 2004?) we’ve been writing comments at each other you’ve indicated the same thing. So what’s your beef – that I didn’t write a full book this time, or is it something more deep-seated?

      • No, it’s a serious question. You’re implicitly saying that simply wallpapering over things well enough that one could then extract the force with as little damage to prestige and expenditure of blood and treasure as possible wasn’t success. Me, I don’t see that. From very early on the question wasn’t how to “win” but “how the fuck to get off this meathook that’s sticking out of our chest”. Managing to get out without things tipping into a more generalized regional proxy conflict (think the current Syrian adventure with all its sideline adventurers, but a couple of orders of magnitude worse) is frankly about as good a “success” condition as folks should have been hoping for at the time the Surge [tm] kicked off.

        This construct where you’re essentially taking everything and stacking it on the Americans, it’s wonderfully useful politically, but frankly it doesn’t bear a lot of resemblance to any reality that isn’t highly manufactured from the comfortable remove of half a world. The fact that we’re looking at sectarian stuff getting worse in Iraq rather than better – that’s on them. They had a much better set of starting conditions in the aftermath of the Surge [tm] when conflict had to a large extent reached a burnout point than they do now, but they decided – on their own – that they were going to go for all the marbles and dominate the Sunnis to the maximum extent they could. Since then things have trended down, AQI-type elements and capabilities have been allowed indigenous safe haven as insurance rather than being wiped out, etc. etc.

      • The short form of all of this is that the Surge [tm] and managing to get out without any more regional spillover than we’ve seen, that’s what “you broke it, pay up and get the f**k out of our store before you cause more damage!” looks like once one has made the colossally stupid set of decisions they made to get the ball rolling and in the first quite short period of occupation. The celebratory / condemnatory toing and froing by onlookers half a worlds away, that’s politics. Don’t confuse the extended excursion into the depths of stupidity that is current American politics for the reality of global geopolitics.

        • I agree with everything you write but you can’t ignore that “the depths of stupidity that is current American politics” has a massive effect on “the reality of global geopolitics”. The article I linked the other day by Josh Foust on the way in which Petraeus’ weak tea career has been lionized refers. That the Surge and withdrawal from Iraq were successfully marketed as any kind of “win” rather than “the best damage limitation they could manage” in the West has a knock-on effect in the halls of power, where too many are ready to believe their own spin, and in the willingness of Western populations to entertain other interventions – especially if it’s promised they’ll be cleaner and more hands-off than Iraq.

          • No dispute that American politics has a huge effect on world geopolitics. My point would be that one does not help change that situation by letting what passes for dialogue there set the agenda of change. As I said elsewhere, one of the central issues is that the high level strategy process is pretty much completely upgefuckt – were one to judge from discourse, apparently that’s completely due to the fact that Petraeus can’t keep it zipped.

            We keep letting others suck us into completely stupid time wasters – getting bogged down in whether the Surge [tm] was a success or a failure is just dumb. The real issue is that even if it was a brilliant success, getting oneself into that situation in the first place was an epic stupid, and how does one avoid it again (and by that I emphatically do not mean how do we substitute a hero for a villain at the top of the food chain)?

            Similarly, the issue isn’t that Petraeus isn’t the brilliant architect of the Surge [tm] but instead someone who just had the brains to jump on the back of an indigenous movement identified by relatively junior officers – the issue is that even that very limited amount of insight put him so far head and shoulders above previous commanders.

            Update: JPD, we’ve run out of indent space to reply, so I’ll use my EiC privileges to do so here…


            Regards, Steve

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