Monday, April 23, 2007

An Update on Kirkuk

Following-up on a blog entry last week where I discussed the sensitive situation in Kirkuk, there has been yet another update worth checking out. Along with last week's ICG report, today's Washington Post has a piece that supports what Ignatius was saying last week. Al Kamen explains that:
"While everyone's been focusing on Baghdad as the key to getting things calmed down in Iraq, the situation in Kirkuk to the north is edging toward serious trouble."
The Arabs are a third party involved in the dispute over Kirkuk, which makes matters even more complicated. The history of an Arab presence there dates back to the Saddam regime, when he had them relocate from the south to occupy the oil rich city. Today, Kurds are worried about the impact the Arab vote will have on the upcoming referendum to decide who will control the city. Kamen explains that, "Arabs are being encouraged to go back 'home,' wherever that is. Kurds whom Saddam kicked out are coming back...and Turkey continues to be concerned about the large Turkmen population in the city."

The army is trying to deal with the potential problem, and has put forth a "request for information" from contractors and urban planners for "the design of the Kirkuk Master Plan" according to Kamen. This plan is meant to target problems concerning land use and "other developments." There is still no mention of conflict resolution strategies and as Epic has said before, there must be a diplomatic effort for real reconciliation to take place. It seems Kamen agrees that there is more to the problem in Kirkuk than just devising a plan that urban planners and contractors can address:
"'Other developments'? Well, unless the tensions can be defused, this might include congestion created by troop movements, tank routes and battery placements...Planners might want to widen streets for evacuation routes...But at least there'll be a plan."

Again, a diplomatic resolution is long over-due for the complex situation in Kirkuk. A diplomatic resolution will ensure that all parties can be content with the outcome, and that these tensions don't spill over into more destabilization in the country. Washington should be a leader in fostering that dialogue between all parties. "If a ray of hope shines through this dismal tangle, it is that all sides in Kirkuk currently seem to agree on the need for dialogue" (ICG 2007).

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