Guerrillas Kill 29 Iraqis Tuesday

Guerrillas Kill 29 Iraqis Tuesday, Wound over 100 in North
3 US Servicemen Dead
Kurds Abducting Arabs, Turkmen in Kirkuk

The Associated Press reports

“And an American soldier was killed when a roadside bomb hit his convoy in southern Baghdad, the military said, adding that two other soldiers assigned to a Marine unit died in a similar attack Monday in Ramadi, 60 miles west of the capital.”

A suicide bomber killed 23 persons and wounded nearly 100 when he detonated his payload outside a bank in Kirkuk as seniors stood in line to cash their pension checks.

In Kan’an, a half-hour drive north of Baghdad, a suicide bomber targeted an Iraqi military checkpoint, killing 5 troops and wounding 2.

Hospitals in Baghdad received the macabre shipment of 24 corpses of men who had been ambushed by guerrillas in the west of Iraq.

In Ramadi, a suicide bomber attacked a military checkpoint and killed one Iraqi soldier. In the aftermath, US Marines and Iraqi soldiers opened fire on civilians in cars behind the suicide bomber, killing 5 civilians. AP implies that they were in fact innocent civilians.

Steve Fainaru and Anthony Shadid of the Washington Post report that the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan have used their police and security units in Kirkuk to kidnap hundreds of Arabs and Turkmen in the city. They have been held in prisons outside any legal framework, and some have been tortured. The two intrepid reporters have gotten hold of a US State Department memo on the issue:

‘A confidential State Department cable, obtained by The Washington Post and addressed to the White House, Pentagon and U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, said the “extra-judicial detentions” were part of a “concerted and widespread initiative” by Kurdish political parties “to exercise authority in Kirkuk in an increasingly provocative manner.” ‘

Kirkuk is a powderkeg. AFter the fall of Saddam, the city of about 1 million was estimated to be about 1/3 each Turkmen, Arab and Kurdish. But many Arabs have been chased out, and many Kurds have come into the city (in many cases returning to a place from which Saddam had expelled them). Fainaru and Shadid now seem to suggest that the Kurds are about 48 percent of the population, with Turkmen and Arabs a quarter each.

The kidnapping tactics extend to Mosul and perhaps to Tel Afar.

Arab on Kurdish violence could provoke a civil war. Kurdish on Turkmen violence could bring Turkey into northern Iraq, since Ankara sees itself as a protector of Iraq’s 750,000 Turkmen.

US military and Kurdish officials denied the abductions or said they had ended, but obviously the State Department does not agree, and Fainaru and Shadid find plenty of evidence that they are continuing.

Hamza Hendawi reports that Sunni Arab demands that they have 25 representatives on the constitution drafting committee in parliament probably spring from an over-estimation of their proportion of the population. The Shiites won’t give them more than 15, the same as the Kurds, on the grounds that both minorities are about 20 percent of the population. The Sunni Arabs often maintain that they are a majority. They are a small minority, however, and I personally suspect they are a samller proportion of the population than 20. (5 percent of Iraqis are Christians, Turkmen and other smaller minorities, and about 62 percent are Shiites. That only leaves 33 percent for the Kurds to split with the Sunnis).

Wrangling about the composition of the constitution drafting committee has held up its work, to the point where President Bush phoned Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish president of Iraq, on Monday to urge him to find a compromise so that the constitution could get written. Talabani, however, probably isn’t seen by the Sunni Arabs as an honest broker (see above).

The Shiite dominated government of Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari received a vote of confidence from the Shiite dominated parliament.

Reuters reports that a new radio station focusing on women’s issues has begun broadcasting in Baghdad.

Ed Wong of the New York Times writes, ‘ Joost R. Hiltermann, director of the Middle East office of the International Crisis Group, a conflict-resolution organization, said in a recent interview that the White House should ensure that the national Iraqi government administer Kirkuk rather than the Kurds. Otherwise, he said, the potential for large-scale civil conflict will increase. ‘*

This last from Hiltermann was a misquote, which the Times later corrected, on 6/22/05

*New York Times

Corrections: For the Record
Published: June 22, 2005

A front-page article last Wednesday about a suicide bomb attack in Kirkuk, a city in northern Iraq riven by political and sectarian tensions, misstated the view of a conflict-resolution specialist on who should govern the city. The specialist, Joost R. Hiltermann, director of the Middle East office of the International Crisis Group, said the White House should ensure that Kirkuk has administrative autonomy, not that the central Iraq government should run it.

Hiltermann wrote me by email:

Joost writing: ‘ Actually, I also didn’t use the phrase “the White House should ensure that Kirkuk has administrative autonomy”. I probably said what I always say: That Kirkuk should become a federal region by itself in the new federal Iraq, just as Baghdad is expected to become a federal region. Of course, it is difficult to be precise when Iraqis themselves have yet to decide what sort of political structure they want for the new Iraq. My point is that for the sake of peace, stability and justice in Kirkuk, Kirkuk governorate (reconstituted) should fall neither under the direct control of the central government nor of the Kurdistan Regional Government. ‘

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