Kurdish Ethnic Conflict Leaves 6

Kurdish Ethnic Conflict leaves 6 Wounded; Curfew imposed by US

Six persons were injured on Saturday in ethnic violence in Kirkuk, and US troops imposed a night time curfew on the city. Paul Bremer visited the city and appealed for calm.

Al-Hayat said that in Kirkuk, three Iraqis (two Arabs and a Turkmen) were wounded in two separate incidents. Shirzad Rifaat Qadir of the Kirkuk police said that “two Iraqi citizens of Sunni Arab heritage were wounded by gunshots from a police patrol when they attempted to attack the patrol in the al-Urubah Quarter.” He added, “They opened fire on the patrol, which led the police to reply in kind.” Seven Arabs have been killed and many more wounded in clashes with police or Kurdish militias since Wednesday, and Qadir suggested that resentment over these deaths had led to the attack on the patrol. In another incident, police officer Khitab Abdullah Arif said that “unknown assailants opened fire in the direction of the headquarters of the National Turkmen Party, wounding the guard, Awad Muhammad.” The assailants then threw a grenade toward the house of Sabah Zaydan, an Arab member of the provincial council, but failed to cause any casualties. Police Chief Turhan Yusuf said that American soldiers were now in complete control of Kirkuk, undertaking regular patrols alongside Iraqi police.

AFP said that two former members of the Fedayee Saddam fired on a car carrying a Kurdish man, wounding him, but that its passengers managed to fire back, wounding the assailants.

The two leading Kurdish politicians, Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani, continued talks that began on Friday with CPA head Paul Bremer and Jeremy Greenstock near Irbil. (Presumably they are continued to press for a consolidated Kurdish superstate).

Meanwhile, big thoughts are being thought about reorganizing Iraq for elections. Edward Wong of the NYT reports, “Mowaffak Rubaie, a Shiite member of the Governing Council, said his preference was to split Iraq into five states: the Baghdad area; the Kurdish region; the largely Sunni Arab northwest; the Shiite holy area that includes the cities of Najaf and Karbala; and the far south, where the culture is rooted in the nomadic traditions of the Arabian peninsula. A joint government would rule Kirkuk. “This system has a tacit acceptance of the ethnic confessional divide of Iraqis,” Mr. Rubaie said. “If Najaf and Karbala want to ban alcohol, so be it. But the Kurdish people like their bottle, so let them vote for it.”

This is the first time I have seen Rubaie’s plan laid out so clearly. I personally think it is a bad idea. Democracy flourishes where you set things up so that politicians have to please more than one constituency in order to get elected. Right now, a Diyala politician would have to try to satisfy Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Shiites. She would have to seek common denominators that would draw people together. Rubaie’s plan would make it possible for a Shiite politician in Najaf or Basra to ignore the non-Shiites, and to ratchet toward Shiite extremism if that played well with his constituents. Rubaie doesn’t realize it, but the effect of his plan will be to weaken Iraq’s unity over time.

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