The Next Conflict in Iraq? Will the Kurds try to Annex Kirkuk Permanently?

By Nawzat Shamdeen | Berlin | via

What will happen to Iraq’s “disputed territories” once Sunni Muslim extremists have been driven out? Will the Iraqi Kurdish military, who now control some of it, insist on staying? Or will conflicts between the Iraqi Kurdish and the Iraqi army make for the country’s next crisis? NIQASH gathers opinions. 

As the Sunni extremist group that currently controls parts of northern Iraq is slowly driven back by a combination of local and international military forces, many locals are asking what will happen to the areas that have come under the control of the Iraqi Kurdish military.

Many of these areas were formerly under the control of the Iraqi government but came under the control of the Iraqi Kurdish military when the Iraqi army fled as the Sunni Muslim extremists from the Islamic State group approached.  Previous to this, some of these areas were also known as “disputed territories” – that is, they were areas that the Iraqi Kurdish said belonged to their semi-autonomous northern region but which the Iraqi government said belonged to Iraq proper. The issue of the disputed territories was supposed to be solved by the implementation of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution.

The question now is who will control these areas when the Islamic State, or IS, group is driven out?

Many now believe that the Iraqi Kurdish military will not withdraw from the areas they have managed to take control of over the past few months. They think the areas will simply become part of Iraqi Kurdistan by default – unless, that is, one of Iraqi Kurdistan’s most important allies, the US government, puts pressure on the Iraqi Kurdish authorities not to do this.

“In practical terms, no matter what happens, the areas that the Iraqi Kurdish military have captured from the IS group, or that they are defending, will continue to be controlled by the Iraqi Kurdish military by default,” says Ghiyath ad-Din Naqshbandi, an expert on Iraqi Kurdish politics. “Any agreement on how to solve these problems depends on the nature of Iraqi Kurdish participation in the new Iraqi government, formed by [the new Prime Minister] al-Abadi.”

“The IS group has changed the balance of power in Iraq,” Naqshbandi says. “When all this started some people thought that the IS fighters were somehow allied with the Iraqi Kurdish because, indirectly, they were doing the Iraqi Kurdish a favour, by emptying the disputed territories of the Iraqi army. But then the IS group began to make its way toward Iraqi Kurdistan, trying to make that part of their Caliphate too.  And that got the Kurds involved in a war they never wanted to be involved in, in the first place – they have always considered this a sectarian conflict that has nothing to do with the Kurdish cause.”

“I think in the end the land will belong to the forces that liberate it,” Naqshbandi concludes.

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AFP: “The Kurds”

Posted in Iraq,Kurds | 9 Responses | Print |

9 Responses

  1. some really good points and I do trust the western powers who are currently involved in this mess do give it all some thought.

    If and when IS goes the way of the dodo bird, what will happen? I doubt the Kurds will give the area up. They have committed too much and fought too hard to give up one square inch. The pain which has been inflicted on the Kurds by the Iraq government when it was run by S. Hussien wasn’t nice and the west simply sat around, while the Kurds were poisoned. I don’t think I will ever forget the cover of National Geographic mag. with the dead father laying there with his small son. I doubt if the Kurds will either.

    My Opinion, the west ought to stay out of it, should Iraq and the Kurds get involved in a dispute. The more the west messes with an area, the messier it gets. Looking back on things now, I’m sure the west wishes they had left S. Hussain exactly where he was, in charge. He wasn’t a nice man, but the country was in better shape and people were safer.

  2. Mark Schulman

    When the British and French carved the Ottoman Empire into countries the Kurds were denied a country of their own and have suffered from this ever since.

  3. “I think in the end the land will belong to the forces that liberate it,” Naqshbandi concludes.

    “Liberate”? Is that the correct verb, except in some odd Narrative? It’s just another bit of human conquest, re-conquest, all that jazz..

  4. Since the Persian Gulf War concluded in 1991, the Kurdish Regional Government had come into being (in 1992) and surprisingly, the Kurds have emerged as the region’s most stable democracy and their militia, the Peshmerga, has become one of the most formidable armed forces in the Middle East.

    Remember the end of the Persian Gulf War when Kurds were waving “We Love Bush” placards and a no-fly zone was established in northern Iraq areas inhabited by Kurds. Since that time, the Kurdish people have flourished economically as the two main politically influential clans, the Talabanis and the Barzanis have learned to coexist in the government.

    Some voices, including Professor Daniel Pipes, have felt that an independent Kurdistan composed of the Kurdish-inhabited areas of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran would be a political boon to the Middle East. The Turkish government would benefit by losing an area that has traditionally been a thorn in its side, the Syrian government currently has engaged in little fighting with Kurds in northern Syria – who are largely autonomous already as in Iraq – and there are also benefits to Iran in ceding its northwestern Kurdish-dominated areas to a newly-minted Kurdish state.

    Israel would likely give diplomatic recognition to a new Kurdish state – there are 100,000 Kurdish Jews living in Jerusalem alone. Many Israeli observers have compared the historic persecution of Kurds to their own history as a religious minority and expressed support for the creation of an independent Kurdish nation.

    The Kurds have had a historically favorable relationship with the U.S. and the Central Intelligence Agency has had a sporadic but significant relationship with Kurdish elements for decades.

    The Kurds were never given their independent nation that had been contemplated by world powers following the conclusion of World War I. Now is the time to allow the Kurds to fulfill their people’s dream of an independent Kurdistan.

  5. Juan, maybe the US wants the Kurdish control of Kirkuk instead of the Iranian backed regime.

    Seems much easier to gain a Forces agreement with a Kurdish government sympathetic to US. Kurds would agree to US military bases in Erbil and Kirkuk as well?

    • Depends on how useful the Turks decide to be. Other than a desire to maintain the integrity of Iraq, the major stumbling block to greater US support of Kurdish autonomy/independence was Turkish discomfort with such. Any one know to what extent the PKK and the Iraqi Kurds overlap?

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