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.