So That Kirkuk Does Not Explode the Situation in Iraq

  • 30 July 2008

Iraq suffers from many problems that affect the overall political situation in the country and prevent a national reconciliation in the face of the numerous challenges facing it on multiple levels. Perhaps one of the most dangerous problems is that surrounding the issue of the northern city of Kirkuk whose status engenders many racial, economic, and regional sensitivities and complications. The city is rich in oil, has a mix of Arabs, Kurds, and Turkomans, and is the sight of local, regional, and international crosscurrents. Since the beginning of the post-Saddam political process, there has been a realization of the danger its status presents, which is why deciding its future was postponed so that some issues could be resolved. It was hoped that the success of the overall political settlement in the country, and the participation of all political forces in it, could provide a framework for resolving its problems.

But the disagreements that have heated up lately following parliamentary legislation about electing local government councils – itself vetoed by the Iraqi President – point to the complexity and depth of Kirkuk's problem. These disputes could lead to a widespread and dangerous conflagration that could threaten Iraq's unity and the coexistence between its communities. The suicide attacks that targeted a Kurdish demonstration against the new electoral legislation and the clashes between Kurds and Turkomans are an indication of what Kirkuk might lead to of problems and the possibility of a dangerous reshuffling of the cards.

Through common legal and institutional frameworks laid down since 2003, the Iraqis have accepted living together in a unified state. This is what should be emphasized and worked on to deal with the Kirkuk problem; in addition to elevating national considerations above racial and provincial concerns which should be set aside. All indications from Iraq say that the situation there is still quite dangerous, and the latest rise in terrorist attacks only point in that direction since they have targeted all areas of the country and all Iraqis. This necessitates more national reconciliation between the different political currents and forces and the different sectarian groups. Disagreements should be prevented from affecting the unity of Iraq or from leading to confrontations between the country's religious groups, races, and regions.

There is no doubt that dealing with the issue of Kirkuk is not an easy task, given its many serious complexities. But a national commitment to deal with it is likely to assist in untangling its knots and sensitivities.