In mid-August 2009, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq General Ray Odierno proposed joint U.S.-Iraqi-Kurdish patrols in Ninewa. The Americans made the proposal after a series of mass casualty bombings rocked the province. The offer was later extended to all of the disputed territories in northern Iraq. The idea originated from a joint military command set up outside of Kirkuk to coordinate security operations between American, Iraqi, and Kurdish peshmerga forces. The purpose of the patrols is to increase cooperation and communication between Iraqi and Kurdish forces, which have often been at odds with each other, and close the security gaps that the insurgents have been able to exploit between them to carry out attacks.
General Odierno met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Kurdish President Massoud Barzani about the plan. The Kurdish authorities immediately welcomed the idea, as did the Kurdish Ninewa Fraternal List. The main opponents of the plan have been Sunni Arab and Turkmen parties and politicians. Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, expressed concerns about the idea when he met with Vice President Joe Biden in mid-September 2009 during his trip to Iraq. A few days before on September 12 a group of Turkmen demonstrated against the U.S. plan in Kirkuk. Earlier on September 1 Arab and Turkmen marched together in opposition to the idea as well. The Arab bloc in the Tamim provincial council also threatened a boycott if the patrols were implemented, and the al-Hadbaa controlled provincial council in Ninewa was also critical of the concept in August. The most inflammatory statement however, came from the al-Hadbaa governor of Ninewa Atheel al-Najafi who said that joint patrols in his province would influence the 2010 parliamentary elections in favor of the Kurds, and that therefore voting in Kurdish areas of Ninewa should be cancelled.
With the joint patrol concept creating that many divisive opinions, they’re unlikely to be implemented for now. There may be specific towns where local officials might be able to work something out, but otherwise the issue is becoming a political football between Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen. With parliamentary elections coming up in January 2010 as well, politicians are likely to take up the issue one way or the other to promote their own agendas further complicating the matter.
AK News, “Kurds welcome Americans Kirkuk proposal,” 8/20/09
- “Kurdish areas in Nineveh spark sharp disputes,” 9/17/09
Aswat al-Iraq, “Arab bloc in Kirkuk threatens to boycott council,” 9/3/09
- “Hashemi voices reservations about joint forces presence in Kirkuk, Ninewa,” 9/16/09
International Crisis Group, “Iraq and the Kurds: Trouble Along the Trigger Line,” 7/8/09
Nordland, Rod and Dagher, Sam, “U.S. Will Release More Members of an Iraqi Militia,” New York Times, 8/18/09
Radio Sawa, “A demonstration in Kirkuk against the proposed deployment of a joint disputed areas,” 9/12/09
Visser, Reidar, “Maliki’s Northern Headache, and How General Odierno Is Compounding It,” Iraq And Gulf Analysis, 9/9/09