August 2009 saw a sharp increase in mass casualty bombings across Iraq. After Baghdad, Ninewa was the hardest hit. On August 9 a suicide bomber struck a mosque in Mosul killing 23 and wounding 130. The next day two truck bombs hit the village of Khazna in eastern Ninewa killing 20 and wounding 110. Finally, on August 13 a suicide truck bomber attacked a café in Sinjar killing 20 and wounding 35.
Tensions were already high in the province due to the divide between the Kurdish Ninewa Fraternal List and the ruling al-Hadbaa party, and the two sides blamed each other for the violence. In response the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq General Ray Odierno suggested creating joint U.S.-Iraqi-Kurdish patrols in Ninewa. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the head of the Fraternal List initially welcomed the idea, and on September 1, 2009 it was announced that the joint operations would go ahead in the Mosul suburbs, the capital of Ninewa. The Americans have already set up similar patrols outside of Kirkuk in Tamim province, and are seen as a way to foster cooperation between Arabs and Kurds, so they could be a positive move in Ninewa as well since things have only gotten worse there politically since the January 2009 provincial elections.
In neighboring Tamim however, Arabs have protested against expanding the program to Kirkuk itself and other parts of the province. On September 3, the Arab bloc on the provincial council said they would conduct a boycott if joint patrols were created within the city of Kirkuk. Then on September 5, 500 people in the town of Huweija demonstrated against the patrols being formed across the rest of the province. The Arabs are probably afraid that the policy will give the Kurds a larger presence in Tamim and Kirkuk then before, and thus upset the delicate balance between groups.
The joint patrols when implemented have apparently helped relieve tensions, but they are only a band-aid. American troops are drawing down so the operations can only last for a set amount of time. The bigger problem is the growing divide between the Fraternal List and al-Hadbaa, Baghdad and Kurdistan, and Arabs and Kurds. This needs U.S. mediation, but Washington doesn’t seem to be giving it much priority. Only the American military seems to be taking the initiative, and that’s not enough.
Agence France Presse, “Humdreds protest against proposed US-Iraq-Kurd force,” 9/5/09
AK News, “Kurds welcome Americans Kirkuk proposal,” 8/20/09
Aswat al-Iraq, “Arab bloc in Kirkuk threatens to boycott council,” 9/3/09
- “Demonstrations in Huweija against tripartite force,” 9/5/09
- “Iraqi-Kurdish-U.S. security teams in Mosul-source,” 9/1/09
- “Mosul mosque blast death toll up to 38, wounded 90,” 8/7/09
- “Mosul truck bombs casualties rise to 153,” 8/10/09
- “Sinjar suicide blast casualties up to 55,” 8/13/09
- “Truck bombs kill 20, wound 110 in Mosul,” 8/10/09
Graeber, Daniel, “arab-kurdish divide dominating u.s. agenda,” Niqash, 9/1/09
International Crisis Group, “Iraq and the Kurds: Trouble Along the Trigger Line,” 7/8/09
Juhi, Bushra, “Iraqi Arabs protest US plan for Kurdish patrols,” Associated Press, 9/5/09
Nordland, Rod and Dagher, Sam, “U.S. Will Release More Members of an Iraqi Militia,” New York Times, 8/17/09