الرئيسية » English Articles » THE LATEST NEWS ON KURDS 3/4/2008

THE LATEST NEWS ON KURDS 3/4/2008

1. EU was wrong to include PKK on terror list: court – Reuters
2. EU court overturns decision to put the PKK Kurdish rebel group on EU terror list-AP
3. EU Court Rules Against Turkish PKK Being On Terror List – AFP
4. Iranian Defectors Provide Crucial Intel
5. IHD: Discrimination, violence against Kurdish students continues
6. KHRP condemns ongoing violence against civilians in Turkey and Syria since Newroz Festival
7. European Union draws PKK out of terrorist list
8. EU Commission chief to visit Turkey
9. The Second Iran-Iraq War
10. Kirkuk next likely flashpoint
===============
1. EU was wrong to include PKK on terror list: court

3 April, 2008

LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) – A European Union court ruled against the way the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) was put on the bloc’s list of groups whose funds must be frozen to help fight terrorism in 2002, but the EU said the ruling was irrelevant.
The Court of First Instance (CFI), the EU’s second-highest court, said the EU had not properly justified its decision at the time.
But an EU official said a new version list had been drawn up in December 2007, including the PKK again, which took into account the views of the court in similar cases in the past.
“For the Council (of EU governments), the PKK continues to be on the list,” the official said.
The Turkish government blames the PKK for nearly 40,000 deaths since the group launched an armed struggle for a Kurdish homeland in southeast Turkey in 1984.
Thursday’s ruling followed similar judgments by the CFI that the EU had failed to give sufficient reasons for including groups on the list, including exiled Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mujahideen.
(Writing by William Schomberg in Brussels; Editing by Robert Woodward)
==============
2. EU court overturns decision to put the PKK Kurdish rebel group on EU terror list

The Associated Press
April 3, 2008

BRUSSELS, Belgium: An EU court on Thursday overturned a decision to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its political wing on the European Union’s terror list.
The Luxembourg-based court said that decisions made by EU governments in 2002 and 2004 to blacklist the two groups and freeze their assets were illegal under EU law.
It is the latest of several court decisions overturning similar EU decisions, on the grounds that the groups added to the terror list were not properly informed of the decision to blacklist them or given a right to appeal the decision.
The EU court said the autonomy-seeking PKK, or Kurdistan Workers Party, and its political wing, known as KONGRA-GEL, were not in positions “to understand, clearly and unequivocally, the reasoning” what led EU governments to add them to the terror list.
The PKK was added to the list in 2002, after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. Its political wing was added in 2004. The United States and Turkey also list the PKK as a terrorist organization. Fighting between the guerrillas and Turkish troops has claimed more than 37,000 lives since 1984.
The Kurdish group won an appeal last year giving it a right to a hearing and a new case to get it removed from the EU list.
An Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, won a 2006 EU court case annulling their listing by the EU. That case set a legal precedent and forced the EU to revamp the way it decides which groups and people to add to its terror list.
The EU court also recently overturned a decision to freeze the assets of an exiled Philippine rebel leader and the Netherlands-based Al-Aqsa foundation because they were not informed why their assets were frozen — a breach of EU law.
Europe’s human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, has said the EU’s anti-terror rules violated democratic principles.
EU nations decided in April 2007 to inform groups and individuals when they are placed on the EU terror list. Those listed will now be able to ask why they were put on the list and why their assets are frozen. But there are still no procedures for an independent review and for compensation for possible human rights breaches.
The EU’s has about 60 organizations and individuals on its terrorist list
=================
3. EU Court Rules Against Turkish PKK Being On Terror List – AFP

04-03-08

LUXEMBOURG (AFP)–A European court Thursday annulled a European Union decision to place Turkey’s rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on its list of terrorist organization.
However, the decision has no immediate impact as the ruling refers to the decision to place the group on the list in 2002 and the list is normally updated every six months.
The court of first instance, the E.U.’s second-highest court, followed similar reasoning in 2006 when annulling the listing of the Mojahedin People’s Organization of Iran from the list.
Despite that decision the name of the Iranian opposition group remains on the latest version of the E.U.’s proscribed list along with 46 other entities including the armed Basque separatist group ETA, Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers and the Islamist group Hamas.
The European Court of First Instance in Luxembourg ruled that the decisions to place the PKK or their aliases on the proscribed E.U. list were “lacking an adequate statement of reason.”
The PKK is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the E.U.
More than 37,000 people have been killed since it took up arms for self-rule in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish east and southeast in 1984.
The PKK was included on the list in May, 2002. Two years later Kongra-Gel was added on the list as an alias for the PKK.
The PKK brought action for the annulment, with backing from Britain.
The register was drawn up to respect a U.N. Security Council resolution adopted in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks which demanded that countries crack down on “terror” financing.
Those on it are subject to an asset and funding freeze.
==============
4. Iranian Defectors Provide Crucial Intel

Newsmax.com
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
By: Kenneth R. Timmerman

Iranian intelligence and security operatives know they have an address in the West should they be seeking to defect from the Islamic Republic, says human rights activist Dr. Amir Farshad Ebrahimi.

In an exclusive interview just days after the Iranian regime attempted to kidnap him in Istanbul and take him back to Iran, the former Revolutionary Guards officer told Newsmax that he and other former Iranian officials and like-minded friends in the West have established a “Salvation Committee” to help high-level defectors seeking to leave Iran.

But such actions do not come without a price.

Ebrahimi’s role in helping a top Iranian government official defect to the United States last spring made him a target of Iranian intelligence last week.

The official he helped, former Deputy Defense Minister Gen. Ali Reza Asgari, is credited with having provided the CIA and other Western intelligence agencies with critical new intelligence on Iran’s nuclear weapons programs, as well an insider’s account of Iran’s overseas terrorist apparatus.

Without Ebrahimi’s help, however, Asgari would most likely have returned to Iran after his special “pilgrimage” passport to Damascus, Syria expired last February.

“We were at the [Iranian] embassy together in Beirut in the mid-1990s,” Ebrahimi told Newsmax. “That’s where we knew each other. That’s why General Asgari called me when he was in Damascus last year. He reminded me that we had been together in Beirut.”

During that fateful call and in other communications, Asgari told Ebrahimi that he didn’t want to return to Iran, but that he only had two days left on his special passport.

Ebrahimi was then living in Germany, and instructed the would-be defector to rent a car and drive to Turkey, leaving his second wife behind in the Damascus hotel room.

From that moment on, the two men remained in constant contact.

After paying a Turkish border guard $1,500 to let him enter Turkey without a visa, Asgari was supposed to rendezvous with Ebrahimi’s contacts at the Gilan hotel in Istanbul, in rooms Ebrahimi had rented for him. But the sudden appearance of Turkish police in front of the hotel scuttled that plan.

As a fall-back plan, Ebrahimi arranged for Asgari to meet with a U.S. embassy official in the Turkish capitol, Ankara. Another U.S. official came from the United States to interview Asgari.

The Americans suggested that the potential defector approach United Nations-affiliated organizations in Ankara and apply for political refugee status, which was approved in a record one week’s time.

Newsmax obtained copies of Asgari’s refugee documents last year and showed them to outside experts who said they were authentic.

From Ankara, Asgari flew to Hamburg, Germany, where he and Ebrahimi saw each other one last time.

“Four hours after his flight arrived in Germany from Ankara, General Asgari changed planes and flew with a U.S. official to Washington, DC,” Ebrahimi told Newsmax.

As a backup plan, Ebrahimi arranged with other members of his Salvation Committee to shelter Asgari in a safe house in Cyprus, but never put that plan into motion because the U.S. government kicked in.

“After he arrived in the United States, Asgari called me and asked me to tell his second wife in Iran that he was OK,” Ebrahimi told Newsmax.

Two weeks later, Asgari had been taken to a safe house in Texas. The last time he contacted Ebrahimi, in early summer of last year, was to encourage him to help other Iranian government officials to defect.

“Did Asgari realize that the CIA was misusing his information to claim that the Iranian nuclear weapons program had been shut down?” speculated Pooya Dayanim, a Los Angeles developer who aided Ebrahimi and was familiar with the Asgari case.

“I believe that his call to encourage other defectors was motivated by a conviction that the nuclear weapons program was still up and running,” Dayanim told Newsmax.

A National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran’s nuclear programs, released in December 2007, claimed on the basis of defector information — presumably from Asgari — that a key segment of the nuclear weapons had been shut down.

But the director of National Intelligence, Vice Adm. Mike McConnell, appeared to walk back that conclusion of the NIE in congressional testimony in early February

He pleaded that a lack of time led to careless wording in the unclassified version of the NIE that was ultimately released to the public. “So if I’d had until now to think about it, I probably would have changed a thing or two,” the DNI acknowledged.

(See the Newsmax report on McConnell back-peddling on the NIE.)

Another report, “U.S. Intel Possibly Duped by Iran,” focuses on how U.S. intel misinterpreted this information.

Sources with knowledge of what Asgari told the CIA about the Iranian nuclear weapons program tell Newsmax they are convinced that CIA analysts cherry-picked Asgari’s information.

These sources believe that CIA analysts included information from Asgari that fit their concept of a politically-ordered “halt” to nuclear weaponization by the Iranian leadership, while neglecting other information he divulged that suggested ongoing nuclear weapons work.

The NIE “was an incredibly shoddy piece of work that made selective use of sources,” a senior U.S. government official who had reviewed the classified source material told Newsmax.

A closed-door briefing to diplomats in Vienna by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s chief weapons inspector on Feb. 25 also directly contradicted the NIE report, as Newsmax reported last month.

Among the documents presented by IAEA Safeguards Deputy Director General Olli Heinonen was an internal Iranian government PowerPoint report detailing progress on a nuclear missile re-entry vehicle through early 2004, well after the NIE claimed the program had been shut down.

Newsmax covered the critical report in a related article.

Ebrahimi said that his Salvation Committee was committed to helping other defectors escape Iran with knowledge of Iran’s nuclear weapons programs and its support for international terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida.

© 2008 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Original: http://newsmax.com/timmerman/defector_Amir_Ebrahimi/2008/04/01/84566.html

Kenneth R. Timmerman
President, Middle East Data Project, Inc.
Author: Countdown to Crisis: The Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran
Contributing editor: Newsmax.com
=================
5. IHD: Discrimination, violence against Kurdish students continues

03.04.2008
Today’s Zaman Ankara

The Human Rights Association (İHD) and the Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples (MAZLUM-DER) claimed in a report released on Wednesday that at some universities the lives of students of Kurdish origin and their right to an education are in danger.

The human rights organizations, in a joint statement released yesterday, pointed out that at Muğla, Afyon, Gümüşhane and Giresun universities there were attacks and discrimination against the Kurdish students. The human rights organizations in the statement demanded an immediate investigation into those cases and published their own report concerning events at Zonguldak’s Karabük University.
The report, based on the statements of students, the governor, the president of the university, the chief of police and the public prosecutor, points out that Kurdish students in Karabük are subject to violence and threats not only on the university campus but also in the city and in their homes, even to the point that they fear going out, claiming that some students had left the school.
According to the report, students allege that on March 9 they were attacked physically by members of a nationalist group. The students also maintain that they visited the police station and later the hospital, but that doctors at the hospital refused to give them the needed health report on grounds that “they [doctors] are nationalists, too.” The students stated that when they left the hospital a crowd outside tried to lynch them, shouting “get the terrorists.” The crowd also reportedly threatened the students, saying, “Leave here, we will not let you live here.”
According to the report, the students were escorted in police cruisers to ensure their protection from the crowd, but the police also told them that they would no longer to protect them and that it would be better if the students left the city.
President of Karabük University Burhanettin Uysal, according to report, claimed that such events do not happen at the university but in the city. Uysal said that they were trying to implement positive discrimination for students coming from the east of the country.
“We will not let any group rule the university. We may open investigations into the academics involved,” Uysal said.
The governor of Karabük, Can Direkçi, told the human rights organizations that he had met with the students and advised them to avoid provocations, but he claimed there was no threat to the lives of the students and that they would take all the necessary measures to ensue their safety. The chief of police of Karabük, Zekariya Kahraman, added that there were police patrols in place to protect the students. Kahraman added that he personally would investigate to find out if any policeman had told the students to leave the city.
The human rights organizations in the conclusion of their report pointed out that the despite the many requests by students, the administrators in the city were reluctant to take measures. “The Higher Education Board (YÖK) and the Human Rights Commission of Parliament should start an investigation into the case immediately,” the report stated.
===============
6. KHRP condemns ongoing violence against civilians in Turkey and Syria since Newroz Festival

Kurdish Human Rights Project
02/04/2008

KHRP condemns the indiscriminate use of violence and lethal force by both Syrian and Turkish security forces over the past ten days of Newroz-related celebrations and protests.
On 20 March several protesters were shot dead in the Syrian town of Qamishli when security forces used live ammunition on crowds celebrating the Newroz festival. Hundreds more were arbitrarily detained and KHRP has received several reports that those detained have suffered torture and ill treatment at the hands of their captors.
In the Kurdish regions of Turkey unrest has continued since the security forces’ violent suppression of Newroz celebrations, resulting in further clashes, protests and violence. The use of extreme force on civilians by the authorities has been well-documented. Videos and photographs have been widely circulated in the media showing riot police baton charging unarmed Kurdish civilians, many of whom were elderly. Another widely-circulated video shows a Turkish police officer deliberately breaking the arm of an already-restrained 15-year-old Kurdish child in the town of Colemerg, south-eastern Turkey. According to KHRP sources, the child remains in custody despite the serious injury inflicted upon him. KHRP has also received news that one young man shot and beaten by riot police in Van over a week ago passed away yesterday.
KHRP Executive Director Kerim Yildiz today stated: “KHRP condemns the use of such extreme and indiscriminate force on unarmed civilians exercising their right to assembly. The use of such lethal force not only is a grave violation of human rights and an unacceptable abuse of state authority. Such force also serves to perpetuate conflict and hostility in the region, as does the ongoing Turkish military operations both in Turkey and across the border in Iraq. Such irresponsible violence should be utterly condemned and those responsible for abuses should be brought to justice.”
Kurdish Human Rights Project
================
7. European Union draws PKK out of terrorist list

03 Apr 2008
APA.

Luxembourg-based EU Court disaffirmed the decision made on May 2, 2002 for the including of PKK in the EU list of terrorist organizations and freezing of its bank accounts.
APA quotes the Associated Press, the court passed the decision on the appeal of PKK leader Abdullah Ojalan’s brother Osman Ojalan. The Court considered the decision as a contrary to the EU laws. Osman Ojalan’s appeal was rejected on February 15, 2005 and he was told that he had no authority to represent PKK. However after the appeal of this decision, the case was reviewed again and the decision passed in 2002 was disaffirmed because of contrariness to the EU laws.
EU Court was established in 1958 and each member country is represented there by one judge and 8 lawyers. They are elected for 6 years and a half of court’s staff is changed every three years. The Court is regulating conflicts between EU and member countries, individuals and personalities, as well as between the member countries. It is also releasing opinion on the EU-joined international agreements and responding the appeals of national courts on coordination of EU normative legal acts and EU agreements. The Court decisions are obligatory for the member countries. According to the Maastricht treaty, the countries not implemented the court decisions are fined. The EU Court does not relate to the Strasbourg-based European Human Rights Court.
=============
8. EU Commission chief to visit Turkey

Thursday, April 3, 2008
BRUSSELS – Agence France-Presse
AFP

Two senior European Union officials will visit Turkey next week as the EU candidate country’s ruling party faces trial for anti-secular activities, the European Commission said Tuesday.
Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso and EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn will meet with President Abdullah Gül during their April 10-12 visit, which they are making at the invitation of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Commission said.
The visit will offer the opportunity to give “support for the gradual strengthening of ties between the European Union and Turkey, and support for reforms which will bring Turkey closer to the EU,” Commission Spokesman Johannes Laitenberger said.
He stressed that while the visit had been planned “for some time” it came at a “critical moment.”
Rehn voiced concern Monday at the decision of Turkey’s Constitutional Court to hear a case aimed at banning the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) for anti-secular activites.
Chief Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya charges the AKP, which emerged from a banned Islamist movement, is turning its religious rhetoric into action in a bid to establish an Islamist system.
He has also called for 71 officials, among them Erdoğan and Gül, to be barred from politics for five years.
Although Rehn did not openly renew a weekend warning that Turkey’s EU negotiations could be disrupted by the case, he said: “There is much at stake in the handling of this issue.”
============
9. The Second Iran-Iraq War

By KIMBERLY KAGAN
The Wall Street Journal
April 3, 2008; Page A15

Iran now causes the majority of the violence and instability in Iraq, a trend that began in July 2007, according to U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, when U.S. and Iraqi military offensives swept al Qaeda from its safe havens around Baghdad.

Senior officials of the Iranian government, the U.S. military has noted in press briefings, support and in some cases control, illegal armed groups that are fighting American forces and undermining the Iraqi government. In particular, the recent fighting in Basra and Baghdad is not at root a civil war between Iraqi Shia political factions, but an ongoing struggle between the Iraqi government and illegal militias organized, trained, equipped and funded by Iran.


Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Iraqi Security Forces are now fighting these militias, a long-standing demand of the U.S. that was articulated in congressional benchmarks in 2006. The question for Americans is simple: Will we support Iraq in this fight, or abandon its government and people?

Iran has sponsored illegal militias since the formation of the Maliki government in 2006. The Qods Force, Iran’s premier terrorist training team and exporter of its revolution, provided between $750,000 and $3 million-worth of equipment and funding to Iraq’s militias monthly in the first half of 2007, according to U.S. Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner. In addition, the U.S. military and the press note that Lebanese Hezbollah under Qods Force auspices directly trained Iraqi fighters, sending military advisers to help Moqtada al-Sadr create the Mahdi Army in August 2003, to train Iraqi militias inside Iran in 2005, and to advise the militias inside Iraq since 2006.

The Iranian-trained militias operated in 2006-2008 as units known as Special Groups or Secret Cells, ostensibly claiming to serve within Mr. Sadr’s militia. In reality, the U.S. military says their titular leader – the ex-Sadrist Qais Khazali – reported to a Lebanese Hezbollah commander, who in turn reported to the highest Qods Force leaders.

The foreign advisers organized these Iraqi opposition groups into a Hezbollah-style structure. The Special Groups kidnapped Iraqi government officials, ran death squads against Iraqi civilians, and regularly rocketed and mortared the Green Zone with Iranian-imported weapons. They smuggled in and placed highly-lethal, explosively-formed projectiles (EFPs) to kill U.S. soldiers. In short, Iranian-backed Special Groups prevented Iraq’s government from effectively controlling the country in 2006, even removing some of the Mahdi Army from Mr. Sadr’s control. In the recent clashes, the Special Groups coordinated the unrest and attacks of the regular Mahdi Army in the capital and provinces. In Baghdad, the Mahdi Army, in turn, facilitated Special Groups’ movements.

Moqtada al Sadr ordered his militia to cease fire on March 30 after representatives of Mr Maliki’s Da’wa Party and others traveled to Iran to speak with the commander of the Qods Force. Days before, in a long interview with al Jazeera from an Iranian city, Mr. Sadr requested the release of Qais Khazali from U.S. custody. The recent, general violence ended when the Qods Force judged that it should end.

Where does this leave us? The Iraqi Army’s operations in Basra did not eliminate illegal militias there. The Mahdi Army and the Special Groups have evidently fortified defenses around the city’s perimeter, as well as some neighborhoods, which the Iraqi Army could not reduce at this time. But the operation also revealed new strengths of Iraq’s government and Security Forces.

Mr. Maliki demonstrated his willingness to challenge Shiite militias and Iran in the Shiite heartland of Iraq. The Iraqi Security Forces ably demonstrated their capability to defend central Iraq, and quell an uprising of the Mahdi Army and the Special Groups in the most important cities between Baghdad and Basra. The remaining security problems in Basra will have to be addressed in future operations, which we should encourage the government of Iraq to undertake after additional planning and, perhaps, reinforcement.

The recent fighting in Iraq has also revealed much about our enemies. The intensity of Special Groups activities rose from January to March; U.S. and Iraqi forces found the large caches of EFPs and new Iranian rockets that often precede a Special Groups offensive. The Basra operations seem to have prompted the Special Groups and the Mahdi Army to launch this offensive prematurely, not according to plan. It did not succeed.

Iran and Mr. Sadr could not simply unleash a floodtide of violence that would overwhelm Iraqi Security Forces partnered with U.S. units, because they are more capable of handling the situation. For all of his nationalist rhetoric, Mr. Sadr is evidently not in control of his movement — it appears that the decision to fight or not rested with the Qods Force commander and not with him. But Mr. Sadr’s militia remains a reserve from which the Special Groups can and will draw in crisis.

These events provide an enormous opportunity for either the U.S. or for Iran – and whichever state responds most intelligently and quickly to the circumstances on the ground will gain the benefit. The U.S. should encourage the Iraqi government to defeat Iran’s proxies and agents, and should provide the requisite assistance. It should encourage and support the Iraqi government’s laudable determination to establish the rule of law throughout Iraq, not just where U.S. forces are present.

The U.S. and the Iraqi government must also expand the Sons of Iraq initiative – the program local Iraqis in Baghdad, Anbar and Diyala have utilized to secure their communities alongside Iraqi Security Forces – into Shiite areas. The U.S. should provide funding and support for these groups in the south, and services for their communities, as it does in Sunni areas. The Sons of Iraq have the potential to transform Iraqi politics profoundly, making the Shiite parties more responsive to the needs of the people and less responsive to taking direction from Iran.

Above all, the U.S. must recognize that Iran is engaged in a full-up proxy war against it in Iraq. Iranian agents and military forces are actively attacking U.S. forces and the government of Iraq. Every rocket that lands in the Green Zone should remind us that Iran’s aims are evidently not benign – they are at best destabilizing and at worst hegemonic. The U.S. must defeat al Qaeda in Iraq, and protect Iraq from the direct military intervention of Iran. Failure to do so will invite Iranian domination of an Arab state that now seeks to be our ally.

Ms. Kagan is president of the Institute for the Study of War. Her reports on the military operations in Iraq are available at www.understandingwar.org.
=================
10. Kirkuk next likely flashpoint

April 03, 2008
By Caroline Tosh and Zaineb Ahmed

Staffan de Mistura knows his time is running out. Unless the UN envoy is able to resolve differences between the Shiite-controlled government here and the Kurdish authorities in the north over the fate of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, he warns that Iraq will soon face “the mother of all crises.” The odds are not in his favor. Mistura, who was called in last month to defuse what he acknowledges is a “ticking time bomb”, has so far been unable to get the parties to agree on a solution to a problem rooted in p
olicies implemented under Saddam Hussein.

Kirkuk, long a Kurd-dominated city, saw itself “Arabized” under Saddam, who, in an effort to strengthen his control over the critical area, forced thousands of Kurds out of the city and replaced them with Arabs from the south. Now the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government wants the Kurdish population restored and the Arabs evicted from houses some have lived in for years.

The ethnic composition of the city is critical to both parties in advance of a referendum called for under the new Iraqi constitution that will determine whether the city and its surrounding area will be governed by Baghdad or the Kurdish-controlled north. The referendum, scheduled for last year, was put off after the Baghdad government failed to take several constitutionally mandated steps in advance of the vote, such as providing restitution for people who were forced out of Kirkuk by Saddam, resettling
or otherwise accommodating those moved into the area by the previous regime, establishing recognized boundaries for the region and holding an updated census.

Meanwhile, tensions between Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government in Erbil have continued to grow, with sharp disagreement over how the Kurdish militia, or peshmerga, should be financed. Even more controversial are the private oil deals Kurdish authorities have signed with foreign companies, deals officials in Baghdad insist are unconstitutional. There’s little doubt that Baghdad, which loathes the idea of surrendering control of an area that is believed to contain as much as 12 percent of the countr
y’s oil wealth, has been dragging its feet in the process.

And it’s not just Arabs who oppose a possible Kurdish takeover of Kirkuk. The city’s significant Turkoman population, which has its own historical claims on the city, also opposes any move that would strengthen the Kurds’ position in the area. Iraq’s neighbors are also watching developments closely, as any move that strengthens the position of the Kurdish regional government could have implications for Kurdish minorities in Turkey, Syria and Iran.

Ankara is fiercely protective of Kirkuk’s Turkomans, and fears that, should Kurds gain control of the city and its enormous oil wealth, Kurdish separatists could be emboldened to pursue their nationalist ambitions. Nor can Kurds count on the United States, which for years supported their defiance of Saddam’s regime, to back their position. By laying claim to Kirkuk, the Kurds are “making a major mistake”, said Michael O’Hanlon, an analyst with the Brookings Institution.

They should rethink their approach both out of fairness to the United States, which has given them a chance to help build a post-Hussein Iraq, and in the interests of the Kurds and their neighbors,” he wrote in a recent piece in The Washington Post. Now, UN envoy Mistura has been charged with bringing all parties together so that a vote can be held to “determine the will of … citizens” with regard to the city and other disputed territories. But few expect the referendum to be held as scheduled, meaning
that tensions are only likely to grow. As renewed fighting flares in the south among various Shiite forces, the real crisis for the future of Iraq may be looming in the north.

NOTE: Caroline Tosh is a London-based editor for The Institute for War & Peace Reporting; Zaineb Ahmed is a reporter in Iraq who writes for IWPR, a nonprofit organization that trains journalists in areas of conflict – MCT
=================