In April 2009 the United Nations issued its report on Iraq’s disputed territories. The paper offered several possible solutions for Kirkuk. One was revising Article 140 of the constitution to make it a detailed plan, two changing the constitution to make Tamim a regular province, three giving joint rule to Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government over the province, and four making Kirkuk an autonomous region. The United Nations did not mention Kirkuk becoming part of Kurdistan as the Kurds want, nor placing Tamim under the direct rule of Baghdad, something the Arabs of the area advocate. As Joost Hilterman of the International Crisis Group recently pointed out, any settlement to the disputed area will require concessions from all the major groups, and that means the Kurds and Arabs will have to give up their desired outcomes.
So far, the U.N.’s paper has received mixed reviews. The Kurds and Baghdad have gone along with the plan so far, and in June 2009 began quiet meetings mediated by the U.N. and the U.S. Publicly however, the Kurdish leadership is insisting that Article 140 be implemented, even though all groups have agreed to abandon it. This is part of electioneering for the July 25 Kurdish elections. Turkmen in the province support the fourth idea of giving Tamim autonomy. Local Arabs however have rejected the plans claiming that they are biased towards the Kurds. Because there are such deep-seated divisions and distrust amongst these various groups it will take a Herculean effort to overcome them and come to some sort of grand compromise. The U.S. is asking the different parties to give the process a chance, but if Washington doesn’t put its full weight and influence behind them, it’s unlikely that the U.N. alone will be able to do the job. It’s important that Washington does this sooner rather than later because its influence is dramatically decreasing with the withdrawal of its forces.
Alsumaria, “Barzani: Kurds not to compromise on Kirkuk,” 7/20/09
Cocks, Tim, “U.N. wants Iraq Kurds to drop Kirkuk vote-diplomat,” Reuters, 7/21/09
International Crisis Group, “Iraq and the Kurds: Trouble Along the Trigger Line,” 7/8/09
Madhani, Aamer, “Envoy to Iraq has message of tough love,” USA Today, 7/21/09
Synovitz, Ron, “Senior Iraqi Visit To U.S. Comes As Federal System Is Tested By Baghdad, Kurd Dispute,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 7/22/09