Kirkuk At Center Of Kurdish Shiite

Kirkuk at the Center of Kurdish-Shiite Struggles

I find most reporting on the struggle between Iraq’s Kurdish president, Jalal Talabani and the current Shiite Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, to be awfully superficial and to allow itself to be led by Talabani’s talking points.

What is really going on here has to do with Jaafari’s positions on federalism, the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, and Kurdish-Turkish relations.

1) Jaafari has promised Turkey that if the 5,000 or so members of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) who have taken refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan do not behave themselves, they will be expelled. A lot of Iraqi Kurdish politicians are said to sympathize with these PKK refugees.

2) Jaafari is not happy about letting the Kurds just pour into Kirkuk province and take it over demographically. There are a lot of Turkmen and Arabs in Kirkuk, some proportion of them Shiites and so Jaafari’s natural constituency. The interim constitution specified a referendum in Kirkuk on joining the Kurdistan regional confederacy. The Kurds will certainly win it. If they do, they will permanently marginalize the Turkmen and Arabs, and will monopolize the northern oil fields for their nationalist purposes, probably leading to ethnic war in the Iraqi north but in any case setting the stage for Kurdish secession.

3) Jaafari dislikes the “Kurdish model” of very weak central government and powerful regional confederacies for Iraq. The Kurds are fiercely protective of the Kurdish model, and convinced Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq to adopt it for the Shiite south. It will almost certainly break up the country.

Jaafari is not being attacked because he is weak, or indecisive, or because he could not keep order in the country. He is being attacked for the opposite reasons– that he has decisively decided to fight the Kurds on their planned annexation of Kirkuk. The Kurds are powerful, so Jaafari reached out to Ankara for an ally. He was pressed by the Turks to make Kirkuk a city with a “special status” as a way of denying it to the Kurds, and he may have acquiesced. This is the reason that Talabani went ballistic over the prime minister’s visit to Turkey.

FBIS paraphrase of the Turkish Press for March 5 (pub. Mar. 6)

‘ A 400-word article by Nur Batur of Istanbul views the “background” of the disagreement between Talabani and Al-Ja’fari, noting that the Iraqi prime minister’s approach on the status of Kirkuk is similar to that of Turkey, which is against the Kurds’ inclination to change the status of this province. Describing Iraq as a “chaotic” country, Batur asserts that all the ethnic and religious groups are trying to assume an influential role in the new Iraqi administration and place the country’s rich oil reserves under their control. (Istanbul Hurriyet — centre-right, mass appeal daily, country’s top circulation paper, owned by Aydin Dogan, head of the Dogan Media Group . . .

A 300-word report by Senay Yildiz says that speaking to Al-Ja’fari assured the Turkish nation that “a civil war will not break out in Iraq and the future of his country will be in line with the expectations of Turkey.” Commenting on the PKK presence in Iraq, the prime minister promised that “they will either leave Iraq or cease arms.” (Istanbul Turkiye’de Aksam — center-right daily owned by Cukurova industrial and financial group, headed by Mehmet Emin Karamehmet, who is a politically-active member of the Association of Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen, TUSIAD, one of the most prestigious business associations in Turkey . . . ‘

FBIS paraphrases Iraqi newspapers for March 5:

‘Al-Furat runs on the front page a 400-word report citing Iraqi sources confirming that Al-Ja’fari’s stance towards Article 58 of the State Administration Law and the implementation of federalism are behind the recent calls for his exclusion. The report cites citizens urging Iraqi political forces to favor Iraq’s national interests.’

(Article 58 concerns the future of Kirkuk.)

FBIS also reports:

‘ Al-Bayan carries on the front page a 500-word report that Al-Amarah’s inhabitants staged a peaceful demonstration supporting Ibrahim al-Ja’fari. The report cites Salih al-Mutlak, chairman of National Dialogue Front, denying that his front has called on Unified Iraqi Coalition to change Ibrahim al-Ja’fari as prime minister. . . ‘

‘ Al-Furat carries on page 2 a 600-word column by Hasan al-Ta’i criticizing Iraqi political forces for holding Al-Ja’fari totally responsible for the deteriorating security, and political situation. The writer says all Iraqi political forces, including the forces that are not part of the government, are equally responsible for Iraq’s current situation. . . ‘

‘ Al-Furat runs on the front page a 120-word report citing an official source at Kirkuk Advisory Council confirming the dismissal of Kirkuk Police Chief General Shirku Shakir Rahim by Interior Ministry. . . ‘

Al-Da’wah carries on the front page a 100-word report citing Iraqi sources saying that a number of Iraqi officers affiliated with Iyad Allawi are being trained in Washington without the knowledge of their ministries. . .

Al-Da’wah carries on the front page a 100-word report citing a well-informed source in Basra denying that Unified Iraqi Coalition candidate Qasim Atiyah al-Juburi escaped an assassination attempt.

It is worthwhile looking at the FBIS articles around Jaafari’s recent visit to Ankara, which appears to have reinforced the Kurds’ determination to get rid of him.

Turkey’s Iraqi Envoy Expresses Views on Kirkuk, Violence; Conveys Erdogan Letter
Friday, February 24, 2006 T13:10:19Z

ANKARA (A.A) – 24.02.2006 – Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent a letter to Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari on Friday, sources said on Friday.

According to the sources, Erdogan’s letter was conveyed to al-Jafari by Turkey’s Special Representative to Iraq Oguz Celikkol. Celikkol had separate meetings with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and PM al-Jafari yesterday. Today, Celikkol will meet Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, the head of Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and leaders of several Iraqi groups including Sunni leader Tariq al-Hashimi.

In these meetings, Celikkol expresses Turkey’s views about Kirkuk, and stresses that formation of a broad-based government in Iraq and completion of the constitutional process would strengthen Iraq’s integrity.

Celikkol also expresses Turkey’s concern over recent acts of violence in this region.

(Description of Source: Ankara Anatolia in English — Semi-official news agency; independent in content)

Erdogan Explains to Al-Ja’fari Turkey’s Concerns Over PKK Presence in North Iraq
Tuesday, February 28, 2006 T19:11:53Z

ANKARA (A.A) – 28.02.2006 – Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met on Tuesday Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari, who is currently in Ankara on an official visit.

During the meeting, Prime Minister Erdogan explained Turkey’s views about recent developments in Iraq, and expressed Turkey’s concerns about presence of the terrorist organization PKK in northern part of Iraq.

Prime Minister Erdogan also reiterated that Kirkuk’s demographic structure should be preserved.

He highlighted importance of formation of a broad-based government in Iraq that would avert the supremacy of one group over the others. Recent acts of violence were also high on agenda of the meeting.

Prime Minister Erdogan stressed that some circles were trying to drag Iraq into an atmosphere of ethnic turmoil. “It is certain that everyone will suffer unless the flames of ethnic tensions that are being provoked are extinguished,” he said.
Meanwhile, talks have been under way for Turkey’s meeting 25 percent of Iraq’s electricity requirement.

(Description of Source: Ankara Anatolia in English — Semi-official news agency; independent in content)

Turkey: AA Reports More on Erdogan-Al-Ja’fari Meeting
Tuesday, February 28, 2006 T15:10:52Z

ANKARA (A.A) – 28.02.2006 – Political and religious authorities should take joint action against terrorism to prevent terrorist groups in Iraq from reaching their goals and intentions, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday.
After his meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari, Erdogan told reporters that developments, aiming to overshadow December 2005 general elections, were being seen in Iraq.

Erdogan indicated that this step taken by the terrorist groups was tried to be shown as a sectarian conflict.

“None of Sunnis can attempt to bomb Ahlibayt Tomb. This doesn’t seem possible. So, political and religious authorities should take joint action against terrorism to prevent terrorist groups from reaching their goals and intentions,” stressed Erdogan.
Erdogan said, “we have a goal in Iraq, comprised of five main aspects. First of these aspects is to ensure Iraq’s territorial integrity. Secondly, all resources of Iraq should belong to all Iraqi people. Third, none of ethnic groups should have hegemony over the other. Fourth, none of sectarian groups should dominate others.
Fifthly and lastly, Kirkuk should have a special status.”

PM Erdogan emphasized that all those goals could be achieved by a broad-based Iraqi government.

Noting that the process launched by Iraq’s neighbors should also be speeded up, Erdogan said that al-Jafari also welcomed this process.

-AL-JAFARI’S SPEECH- Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari indicated that he would like to thank Turkey for sending special representative to Iraq and showing great interest in his country.

Stating that there have been important developments in Iraq in 2005, al-Jafari recalled that general elections were held, the parliament was formed and the constitution came into force last year.

Al-Jafari said that he hoped that 2006 would be a year when political process would be successful.

Noting that undesired incidents that took place in Iraq over the recent days were intentional terrorist activities, he indicated that enemies of Iraq who could not assimilate the process in Iraq carried out harmful activities to prepare a basis for continuation of lack of security.

Al-Jafari said that on the other hand, these incidents caused Iraqi people to be united, underlining that Iraqi people were aware that these incidents were complot and provocation.

He noted that the government started to exert efforts to prevent these violent acts from spreading over the country, stating that incidents were taken under control.
AL-Jafari stressed that incidents and terrorist activities in Iraq would not make a negative impact on works of the government and efforts for ongoing political process to be successful.

(Description of Source: Ankara Anatolia in English — Semi-official news agency; independent in content)

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