Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Dispute Over Kirkuk Could Lead to Further Destabilization

Today in The Washington Post, David Ignatius, calls attention to a threat that, if not adequately addressed, will pose yet another serious danger to the security of Iraq. Kurdistan, which had been viewed by many as one of the few successes the United States has had in Iraq, could now be the center of further destabilization in the country. According to Ignatius, historic tensions between Turkey and the Kurdish north have become heightened over the past year, and Washington's attempts to stabilize a potential confrontation may not be enough.

There are many factors that are contributing to this already sensitive relationship, one of them being the oil-rich city of Kirkuk that Kurds have claimed, but which Turks regard as a protectorate because of the large Turkmen population residing there. Both sides have made serious verbal threats recently:
"Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani warned that if the Turks meddled in Kirkuk, 'then we will take action for the 30 million Kurds in Turkey.' Turkish General Yasar Buyukanit responded that he favored an invasion of Iraq to clean out the militant Kurdish political party (PKK)."
EPIC, along with others, has supported a political solution to the dispute over Kirkuk. The December 2007 referendum on the future of the city, which Kurds are confident they will win, could be a catalyst for furthering anxieties on both sides if conflict resolution strategies are not an integral part of resolving the problem. Addressing the dispute is essential in the stabilization and reconciliation of Iraq, but it is a problem that has been neglected for far too long. According to the International Crisis Group (ICG) in a July 2006 report:
"Given the high stakes, the international community cannot afford to stand by, allowing the situation to slip into chaos by default. It needs to step-in and propose a solution that addresses all sides' core concerns without crossing their existential red lines."
Click here to read the rest of ICG's recommendations on Kirkuk.

UPDATE: ICG just released a new report called "Iraq and the Kurds: Resolving the Kirkuk Crisis."

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