Why is Kirkuk such an obstacle for Iraq?

August 5, 2008

kirkuk.jpgIraq’s leaders have overcome many hurdles in their struggle to rebuild their country after the ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003.  But agreeing on the fate of the “ethnic tinderbox” of oil-producing Kirkuk is a particularly testing one.

Why has Kirkuk proven to be such an obstacle? For many, settling its fate seems to be an easy task.

The dispute largely revolves around Kurdish demands to incorporate the city into their autonomous northern Iraq region.  Arabs and Turkmens want the city to remain under the control of the Iraqi government as it has always been.

For an outsider the dispute might seem to be an administrative question of who will manage the city but Kirkuk’s fate has taken on national and regional dimensions since U.S.-led forces toppled Saddam. It has fuelled the ethnic conflict between Arabs
and Kurds and drawn in regional powers, especially neighbouring Turkey.

Kurds look at the city inhabited by Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens as their historic capital, while Arabs and Turkmen argue it equally belongs to them.

While Sunnis and Shi’ite Arabs are locked in a power struggle across the country, they are united in rejecting ceding the city to the Kurdish autonomous region.

But Kirkuk is more than a piece of real estate inheritance. The city sits on a sea of “black gold” — Iraq’s biggest oil field, which has become more lucrative with crude prices above $100 a barrel.

From a regional perspective, Ankara opposes Kurdish control of Kirkuk not only out of concern for the rights of fellow Turkmens in Iraq but also because it will bolster its own Kurdish minority’s demands for autonomy.

Watching an independent Kurdistan gradually taking shape across its border, Ankara fears that Kirkuk’s oil could strengthen the autonomous region in the face of a weak central government in Baghdad, and realise Kurdish aspirations for a region-wide Kurdish state, possibly encompassing southern Turkey and parts of Iran and Syria.

After years of trying and failing, Iraqi leaders are trying to reassure friends and foes that they are close to a deal on the future of Kirkuk. But even if parliament adopts a compromise hammered out behind closed doors, it is difficult to see how it will be implemented.

2 comments

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[...] at the regional angle of Kirkuk dispute, though, Reuters waxes pessimistic: Ankara opposes Kurdish control of Kirkuk not only out of [...]

Kirkuk problem has a historic root going back to early 1920 when Iraq was established as a country.The kurds were denied a country of their own(KURDISTAN) and their land was devided on four neighbouring countries naimley: IRAQ,Turkey,Syria and Iran.A propotion of Kurds are living in previously known soviet union.

The Kurds assets(including the rich oil city of Kirkuk) were then taken bits by bits by the subsequent tyrant regiemes in each part of KURDISTAN.They were denied even the basic human rights and in Iraqi Kurdidstan a genocide campaingn(known as Anfal campaing) was deployed by Saddam’s regiem to wipe out the kurdish nationality.More than 180000 live were lost in this campaign.Prior to this campaing the chemical bombardment of halabja killed more than 5000 kurdish people.

The arabasation of Kirkuk was another systematic genocide campaign to eventually make Arabs the majority of kirkuk inhabitants and give the ownerships to Arabs.The kurds were killed and displaced from their home and arabs were settlled in their place through out the 30 years long campaign.

These are facts that some of the nationalist arabs and turkimens are denying it and still trying to claim the ownership of the city.

The simple fact is Kirkuk a diverse multicultural city like any other city in the world but will always be a kurdish land .

Posted by shakawan | Report as abusive

The solution is relatively simple.
-> Allow the towns in the Kirkuk province that don’t want to join the Kurdistan Automomous Region to secceed and join Salahudin province.
-> Allow Kurdish towns (including Kirkuk and other towns currently in Diyala and Salahudin) to join the Kurdistan Autonomous Region.

The problem is that the arabs still fundamentally belive in colonization and control over other peoples. And the Turks only cause problems by financially supporting fomenting fear among the Turkmen minority (Turks still believe in dominating Kurds too).

Push comes to shove, the Kurds can defend themselves as long as the US doesn’t allow Sunni/Shia to ethnically cleanse the Kurds out of Kirkuk again.

Posted by Dave | Report as abusive