Here are some of the stories we are tracking in relation to the Kirkuk Referendum. Here you'll find press releases, news clips dealing with security, elections, and negotiations, as well as upcoming events. News here is vetted as much as is possible, but unless it is explicitly listed as our in-house research, please consider contacting source authors for verification.
Awaiting Official Publication of Election Results
Though preliminary results have been leaked over the past week, the official count from the April 20 local elections (provincial council elections) is still ongoing. Our continuing coverage is available here.
Update on Electoral Disputes from 2013 Governorate Elections
Ten more electoral irregularities or complaints have been reported from polling stations in Diyala Governorate and IHEC is reportedly investigating. This brings to 43 the number of total disputes classified as serious from the 2013 Provincial Council Elections. Resolution of these complaints by the Independent High Electoral Commission and a final announcement of results should take place by next Wednesday.
CKRO will monitor these developments and publish information as it becomes available. Our continuing coverage of local elections in Iraq can be found here.
Regional Stability: PKK to Withdraw from Turkey
The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a Kurdish separatist organization, has agreed to withdraw its forces from Turkey starting on May 8. The history of violence between the PKK and Turkey stretches back almost three decades and has claimed tens of thousands of lives, yet the violence has largely subsided in recent years as political dialogue has expanded. Turkey, NATO, and most western nations identify the PKK as a terrorist organization. The organization—part political party, part militia—seeks an independent Kurdish state and has engaged in armed conflict in Turkey, Iraq, and Syria towards that end.
The PKK forces are expected to return to home bases in the mountainous area of northern Iraq which is a part of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region. Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed PKK leader, and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan have apparently agreed on a political solution to the ongoing conflict. Ocalan has been imprisoned since 1999 for his role in the founding of the Kurdistan Workers' Party.
The ceasefire and withdrawal agreements are important because they may signal a number of changes in the region. With this move, Turkey may indicate a willingness to accept a semi-autonomous Kurdish region either in southern Turkey or in Northern Iraq. The PKK may be willing to accept measures less than statehood in favor of home-rule or expanded political self-determination. This may also be an acknowledgment on the part of both the Turkish government and PKK leadership that other exigent crises, such as the ongoing war in Syria, may demand greater attention or a less fractious approach. The agreement may also signal the growing importance of the Kurdistan Regional Government in economic and geopolitical matters. In any event, if leaders follow this plan and a sustainable peace can be brought about through this political solution, its consequences will be enormous for Turkey, Iraqi Kurdistan, and for Kirkuk's ongoing political deadlock.
Iraq Security Update: Unrest in Northern Iraq
This is an update to a story CKRO published on Tuesday. An anti-Maliki sit-in protest was the site of violence on Tuesday morning in the town of Hawija. At approximately 5:30 AM, an altercation broke out that resulted in 56 protesters dead and 120 others wounded; additionally, an officer and two soldiers were killed and two other members of the Iraqi Army were injured. The predominately Sunni crowd was encamped in a square to protest their treatment by the central government.
Following the violence, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced that a commission was being formed to investigate the incident. The Iraqi Army is reportedly cooperating, while the Defense Ministry issued a statement attributing the violence to insurgents hiding in the crowd of more than 1,000. The security forces had apparently ordered the protesters to hand over individuals suspected in an earlier checkpoint attack, when the suspects were not handed over, the army raided the area. What happened next is under dispute, but 75 people remain in detention and the army believes as many as half of those killed in the raid might have been involved in the attack on the checkpoint.
The protesters in Hawija, located between Baghdad and Kirkuk, dispute those claims. This is a politically delicate time, as tensions between the KRG and the central government remain high, and votes are being counted in an election that will have bearing on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's mandate.
Kirkuk Security: Clash between Army and Protesters
CKRO has received reports of gunfire and explosions in an encampment of protesters as Iraqi Army forces moved in. Numerous injuries and deaths are reported among protesters. Survivors claim the army attacked them unprovoked, while the Iraqi Army claims gunmen were hiding among the protesters. We are unable to determine, at this time, the numbers of victims or the precise circumstances surrounding the violence.
CKRO will track this story and update it as more information becomes available.
Electoral Security: 50 Killed in Coordinated Bombings
As many as 50 people are dead and 300 more are wounded in a series of bombings across Iraq today. Six car bombings struck Kirkuk today, where at least 9 people were reportedly killed; as many as 70 may have been killed. CKRO has received reports that at least one of the attacks in Kirkuk targeted a local political leader.
The AP is reporting that at least one bomb targeted an Iraqi Turkmen district of Kirkuk City, one targeted a Kurdish district, and a third exploded in an ethnically-Arab part of Kirkuk. Injuries are reported from each attack. The explosions occurred nearly simultaneously, thus appearing to be part of a coordinated attack. Consequently, determining what individuals or groups are responsible will be difficult.
Electoral Violence: Leading al-Iraqiya Candidate Killed
A roadside bomb struck the convoy of Najm al-Harbi today, killing the head of al-Iraqiya's electoral slate in Diyala Governorate. The attack is just the latest in a series of high-profile assassinations and attacks against candidates and political activists. CKRO will continue to monitor this story and other reports of political violence. We will bring updates as they become available.
Special Voting for Army and Police Today
The special voting period for members of Iraq's security forces has concluded. All other registered voters will cast their ballots on Saturday, April 20. The ballots cast today will remain sealed in their boxes until general voting has concluded next Saturday.
KRG Elections: Within Next 4 Months
CKRO learned yesterday that the regional government of Iraqi Kurdistan (KRG) will schedule and hold elections within the next four months. In a letter to IHEC, the country's election management body, KRG president Massoud Barzani announced that the KRG would hold both parliamentary and presidential votes in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region by September 8th.
Update: CKRO has received confirmation of the scheduling; UNAMI's EAT situation report number 303 confirms that the election will be held before September 8th. More from the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI)'s Electoral Assistance Team is available, here.
Regional Stability: Syrian Regime Warns Ankara on PKK
The Turkish Weekly and Rudaw are reporting on this week's meetings between Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and Turkey's opposition Republican People's Party. In the meetings, the embattled Syrian regime reportedly warned the Turkish lawmakers against striking a peace deal with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which seeks an independent Kurdish state.
The history of violence between the PKK and Turkey stretches back almost three decades and has claimed tens of thousands of lives, yet the violence has largely subsided in recent years as political dialogue has expanded.
In Syria, the PKK and other ethnically Kurdish militias have often taken up arms against the Syrian regime in the civil war which is now in its third year. Mostly operating in the northeast of Syria in Iraq-Turkey-Syrian border regions, the PKK is also an emergent political force.
More on the comments by Bashar al-Assad relating to the PKK, Turkey, and the Syrian Civil War are available, courtesy of Rudaw, here.
KRG Prime Minister's Statements on Political Crisis
Following the contentious 2013 budgetary process in Baghdad which has drawn the ire of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the semi-autonomous region's prime minister has leveled a series of accusations against Iraq's PM, Nouri al-Maliki. In an interview today, Nechirvan Barzani, the KRG's leader argued that the ongoing political crises in Iraq result from "the policies of Prime Minister Maliki, which deviate from the constitution, and from the country's founding principles of consensus and pluralism."
Such harsh rhetoric has been common in disputes over budgetary and economic matters between Erbil and Baghdad, though the specificity of the charges against the country's prime minister appear to again be ratcheting up. The entirety of the interview with Erbil's chief online news entity is available here.
Electoral Violence: Political Gathering Attacked
More than two dozen are dead and 60 others wounded after a suicide bomb attack against a political candidate and his supporters in the town of Baquba, capital city of Diyala Governorate. Though the candidate escaped the attack unharmed, the targeting of political leaders and voters raises myriad concerns of intimidation and violence in the run-up to the April 20 Governorate Council elections. These will be the first major elections since the withdrawal of international troops at the end of 2011.
Diyala Governorate is no stranger to political violence; in November of last year, CKRO reported on an unsuccessful assassination attempt involving a series of IEDs which were used to target the province's governor.
The news aggregator Middle East Online has coverage of the story here. CKRO will continue to monitor this story and other reports of political violence. We will bring updates as they become available.
Kirkuk Security: Bomb Attack on Worshipers
Coordinated car bombs in Kirkuk and Baghdad have left 19 dead and more than 100 wounded, according to the BBC. The attacks appear to have targeted worshipers at Friday prayers. In Kirkuk, the attacker drove his vehicle into a crowd of worshipers outside a mosque.
The BBC's coverage of the violence is available here.
Governorate Elections: Campaign Period Starts Today
Today, the first of March, marks the start to the campaign period in the run-up to the Iraqi Governorate Council elections. The vote, to be held on April 20, is seen as a key test of recent years' electoral capacity-building efforts, as well a test run of a new highest-quotient method of seat allocation. While the upcoming campaign and election offer voters in most governorates the chance to select their leaders, the governorates of Duhok, Erbil, and Sulaymaniya, which form the Kurdistan Region, as well as the governorate of Kirkuk, will not be participating in April's vote.
Regional Stability: Syrian Scud Hits Iraqi Village
CKRO has received reports that a Scud missile launched from inside Syria has landed in the governorate of Nineveh, although there are as of yet no reports of injuries. The explosion occurred on the outskirts of a small village to the northwest of Sinjar, only a few miles from the Iraq-Syria border. Update: The Guardian reports an interview with the mayor of Tal-Afar in which he says the explosion occurred in the village of Yoush Tapa, roughly three kilometers (or two miles) from the border. While the official also reports the explosion was caused by a Syrian missile, it is too early to determine precisely what has occurred. Continuing coverage is available here.
CKRO will monitor this story closely and publish updates as they become available.
Kirkuk Security: Attempted Suicide Attack
Police in Kirkuk today are reporting that an al-Qaeda member in the governorate was shot at a checkpoint, causing his car bomb to detonate. The would-be attacker was killed, though no other injuries were reported. This attempted attack takes place 10 days after police announced they had "disassembled an al-Qaeda cell and arrested its members" in the southwestern part of the governorate. Tension has remained higher than normal, particularly in Kirkuk City, since the February 3rd attack on police headquarters which killed thirty and wounded dozens more.
CKRO will post Kirkuk security updates as they become available.
Article 140: 2013's Compensation Checks in the Mail
Following up on a story CKRO covered last August, the Committee for the Implementation of Article 140 is reporting that a new series of compensation checks under the normalization program will begin to arrive next week. As part of our coverage, we highlighted a piece wherein Rudaw had reported on the more than 7,000 families whose applications for property redress were mired in a slow claims processing system. The forthcoming payments will be directed to those who have been able to prove that they, or their families, were displaced during the Ba'athist regime under the policy of Arabization. Kirkuk Now reports that a sum of 320 billion Iraqi Dinars has been appropriated for the compensation fund.
Further coverage is available via Kirkuk Now, here.
Tehran to Kurdistan: "Don't Worsen Relationship with Maliki"
An Iranian delegation led by Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force, has reportedly warned the Kurdistan Regional Government against seeking greater autonomy or a closer relationships with Turkey, especially not at the expense of the Erbil-Baghdad relationship. In the meeting between the Iranian delegation and leaders from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of the two major ruling parties of the Kurdistan List, Soleimani promised to restrain Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki in disputes with the KRG, so long as Kurdistan's relationship with Maliki does not further deteriorate. While the details of the meeting are difficult to piece together, Rudaw and the Turkish Weekly have both covered the meetings, the former publishing purported leaks.
This story is being reported today by Erbil-based Rudaw, and their full text is available here. The Journal of Turkish Weekly is reporting on the same, along with coverage of the Iraqi VP succession debate.
Kirkuk Security: Police HQ Bombed
Police report to Reuters and the AP that more than 30 people have been killed in a coordinated attack against the Kirkuk Police Headquarters. Witnesses reported an initial suicide car bombing, followed moments later by an attack by gunmen wearing explosive suicide vests under police uniforms. In addition to the fatalities, as many as 100 others were wounded.
UNAMI Team Discussing IDP Voters with Kirkuk Officials
A team of officials from UNAMI and IHEC are visiting Governorate Electoral Offices in Kirkuk this week to discuss voting provisions for internally displaced people (IDPs), the voter rolls, and electoral security. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq has long provided electoral assistance and capacity building in partnership with Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission, and these efforts intensify before major elections take place.
More information about UNAMI's electoral assistance work in Iraq is available here.
Petrochemical Politics in Iraq: BP and ExxonMobil
The news agency Quartz published a piece today covering the political competition between ExxonMobil, which has an export contract with the KRG, and British Petroleum, which just signed a contract with Baghdad to develop adjacent fields which the KRG is claiming. BP has maintained a close relationship with Baghdad's Oil Ministry, while other foreign oil companies have begun dealing with the Kurdistan Regional Government directly.
The competing claims and opposed economic interests in the north of Iraq have been typical of economic relations in recent years, while the lack of a comprehensive petrochemical agreement between Baghdad and Erbil has meant that the stakes remain perilously high.
The entire write up is available here, courtesy of Quartz.
Minister of Foreign Affairs to Issue Observer Invitations
The UN's Electoral Assistance Team in Iraq is reporting that IHEC has requested of the Minister of Foreign Affairs invitations for international electoral observer missions. More than fifty organizations are expected to participate in monitoring or observation activities for the upcoming governorate elections.
CKRO will continue to track developments and bring them to you as they become available.
Finance Minister's Staff Arrested
CKRO has learned that scores of staffers for Finance Minister Rafi al-Issawi have been arrested by police in Baghdad. Initially, as many as 150 employees of the Ministry of Finance were reported kidnapped by a militia, but security forces quickly confirmed that the staffers were being detained and questioned by the police; ten were brought up on terrorism charges. Issawi has angrily denounced the arrests and is accusing PM Nouri al-Maliki of ordering arrests to consolidate power and marginalize Sunni politicians.
We will continue to track this story and post developments as they become available.
Update: CNN is reporting the staffers still being held are part of the finance minister's security team. The US embassy has released a statement calling for adherence to the rule of law, and the Sydney Morning Herald is reporting on protests against the arrests taking place in Anbar Provence.
Kirkuk Security: 9 Dead in Bombings
Reuters, the AP, and Press TV are reporting that a series of explosions hit Kirkuk today killing at least nine people and wounding more than thirty. The attacks were carried out both with car bombs parked in densely-populated areas and roadside package bombs.
Domestic and International Observers: Registration Open
The United Nations' International Electoral Assistance Team (UN IEAT) is reporting that domestic and international observers have begun registering to observe the upcoming governorate elections. Roughly 300 domestic observers have registered with their respective Governorate Electoral Office (GEO); international observers (or their organization) must receive a credentialing letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and/or IHEC.
CKRO will continue to monitor developments and bring updates as they become available.
KRG President Barzani's Statements on Standoff
The Iraqi newspaper Azzaman has conducted an interview with KRG president Massoud Barzani in which Barazani comments on the standoff, the formation of the cabinet, and the much-disputed Tigris Operations Command (TOC). On that final point, President Barzani stresses that the use of the Tigris Operations Command "is an illegal, unconstitutional and provocative act." Interesting here are the details about the early formation of the command. According to the interview, made public via Erbil's Kurdish Globe, the original TOC project (though objected to by the KRG) requested a technical delegation from the KRG, but the Command's decisions soon requested the a pullback by the Peshmerga, which Erbil obvious sees as unacceptable.
The interview covers a lot of ground, and it is available in full, courtesy of the Kurdish Globe, here.
NYT: American Diplomats Trying to Negotiate De-Escalation
The New York Times is reporting today that American diplomats and at least one general are working to broker a stand down of the Iraqi Army and Peshmerga who are locked in a standoff in northern Iraq. The piece recaps much of the growing tension in the area surrounding Kirkuk and the broader implications for the region. As part of this analysis, the piece also considers the formation of the TOC by Baghdad as being part of an attempt by the central government to control local and municipal security forces directly. Joost R. Hiltermann, of the International Crisis Group, explains "[Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki] is essentially taking control of the police," which troubles those who are politically-opposed to his administration or concerned about the loss of autonomy.
The entire article is available, courtesy of the New York Times, here.
IHEC Electoral Security Committee Meeting Today
Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission will conduct the first full meeting of its Electoral Security Committee today in preparation for the upcoming votes. Similar electoral security assessments are frequently undertaken well in advance of a vote in order to determine the assets needed and best strategies to be pursued to ensure a safe election can occur.
Update: UNAMI's Electoral Assistance Section reports that directors of IHEC's Governorate Electoral Offices (GEO) presented security plans for the voter registration period. Security planning is being supported by UNAMI.
Electoral Update: Candidate, Party, and Coalition Registration Open
The United Nations' International Electoral Assistance Team (UN IEAT) is reporting that the party and candidate registration period has opened for Iraq's upcoming governorate elections.
Electoral Training: Addressing IDPs
Providing access to the ballot box is critically important to internally-displaced peoples (IDPs) and it is often exceptionally difficult from an operational perspective. Erbil and Kirkuk's Governorate Electoral Offices hosted training on IDP voter registration procedures this week.
More about IHEC's work and the IDP voter registration effort is available here.
More Details on Governorate Elections; Kirkuk Yet to be Scheduled
IHEC has released more information on the upcoming elections, but the Kirkuk component of those elections is being held back. It was announced that 863 new registration centers will be opened by the Independent High Electoral Commission, to be spread across the governorates, but openings in Kirkuk Governorate have not been made public. The April 20, 2013 date for Governorate Council elections is now set in stone, but IHEC has declined to apply the same date to the Governorate of Kirkuk, owing to ongoing disputes over electoral procedures there.
Update: Rudaw Politics also has a good article from last Friday explaining the impasse and the political implications for the players. More is available via Rudaw by clicking here.
Kirkuk Security: 3 Car Bombings Kill 5
Five people were killed and close to 60 wounded today in a series of coordinated car bombings in Kirkuk today. This violence comes as more than 20 have been killed in terrorist and insurgent attacks across Iraq today. The Associated Press is reporting the bombings in Kirkuk targeted a Kurdish neighborhood and a Kurdish political party building; these attacks occurred alongside extensive bloodshed in Baghdad.
More on the violence is available through NPR, here.
Standoff Continues in Northern Iraq
The standoff between the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi Army continues, and while the dynamic has become increasingly unpredictable in recent weeks, a pullback by both sides is in the works. NPR is reporting today that Arab and Kurdish leaders are agreeing to move their respective forces back to the positions they held prior to the recent months' buildup, but there has as of yet been no official word on any de-escalation of the standoff.
The reporting by National Public Radio also provides some background on recent violence between opposing forces in the town of Tuz Khormato, located about 50 miles south of Kirkuk City. The entire piece is available, courtesy of NPR, by clicking here.
Iraqi Army – Peshmerga Skirmishes Leave 2 Dead
CKRO has learned that skirmishes this week between the Army's "Tigris Operations Command" (alternatively called "Dijla" as shorthand) and elements of the Peshmerga have left at least two soldiers dead and perhaps as many as a dozen wounded. There has been no official comment from either the central government in Baghdad or the KRG in Erbil. We will continue to monitor the ongoing tension and bring you updates as they become available.
Update: PKK Hunger Strike Ends
News outlets are reporting today that the hunger strike that CKRO reported on in early November is coming to a close. Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed PKK leader, has called for an end to the hunger strike and many prisoners appear to be following the call. Ocalan has been imprisoned since 1999 for his role in the founding of the Kurdistan Workers' Party which Turkey, along with most Western nations, identifies as a terrorist organization. The history of violence between the PKK and Turkey stretches back almost three decades and has claimed tens of thousands of lives. Ocalan is considered a public enemy by Ankara and a political leader by the PKK.
Read more about this story, courtesy of CNN, here.
Yesterday's Bomb Attacks Claim 20 Lives: NYT
The New York Times is reporting today that widespread violence in Iraq killed at least twenty people yesterday and wounded an additional hundred. Kurdish and Turkmen political headquarters were attacked with car bombs, killing nine people and wounding more than thirty others. The Times reports that yesterday's much-publicized roadside bomb assassination attempt in fact targeted Omar al-Humairi.
The entire report is available online, courtesy of the New York Times, here.
Early Reports: Assassination Attempt against Diyala Governor in Kirkuk
Multiple news sources in northern Iraq are reporting today that the convoy of Diyala province governor was attacked today by a planted IED or suicide bomber while transiting through Kirkuk Governorate. The attack reportedly took place on the Kirkuk – Mosul highway in the southern part of the governorate. CKRO will update this story as more information becomes available.
Al-Monitor: Kurds Reject Maliki’s Peshmerga Demands
Al-Monitor is reporting today that Kurdish leaders are rejecting Prime Minister al-Maliki's assertion that the Kurdish ethnic security forces must be controlled by Baghdad. While an official statement is expected next week, Al-Monitor already has a number of reactions, both attributed and otherwise.
Rudaw Interview with Tigris Operations Command Leader
Just one day after Prime Minister al-Maliki's statements declaring that the Peshmerga must come under the command of Baghdad, Rudaw has published an extensive interview with Abdulamir Zaidi, the top commander of the Tigris Operations Command (frequently identified only as "Diyala" or "Dijla"). Zaidi explains the command as being a "structure for cooperation" rather than a military force, though there clearly are many Iraqi Army soldiers contained within that structure.
The timing of the interview's publication is helpful, given the tension between Peshmerga forces and the Iraqi Army in recent months, and the fact that the existence of Tigris Operations Command has stoked fears among the Kurdish population in Kirkuk. Just yesterday, Rudaw published an interview with Najmaldin Karim on why he would never allow the TOC into Kirkuk.
Kirkuk Governor: Tigris Command Forces Will Not Be Allowed in Kirkuk
Najmaldin Karim, the governor of Kirkuk Governorate, gave an interview with Rudaw today in which he discussed the ongoing conflict between Baghdad and Erbil over the future of Kirkuk and the presence of the Iraqi Army's Tigris Operations Command so close to the disputed city of Kirkuk. The interview covers the fractures in the KRG between the parties and the loyalties of the security forces, but the biggest standouts are the questions regarding how the KRG would respond to an "incursion" by the Iraqi Army's new operational element. When asked what the Peshmerga would do if the Army advanced on Kirkuk, Karim answers simply "we will not allow any force to enter Kirkuk."
The entire interview is available, courtesy of Rudaw, here.
Al-Maliki: Kurdish Forces must be Under Baghdad's Authority
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is demanding that the Peshmerga, Iraq's Kurdish ethnic security forces, must fall under the control of the central government in Baghdad. The Prime Minister today has expressed his willingness to fund the Peshmerga if they are to fall under his command, however he condemned them for having access to "forbidden weapons" belonging to the Iraqi Army before their fall in 2003.
The Peshmerga are loyal to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), based in Erbil, which supplies their training, equipment, and funding. The KRG has in the past experimented with allowing certain elements of the Peshmerga to integrate with the Iraqi Army (controlled by Baghdad), but they are unlikely to cede control of their most-important security apparatus to Maliki, of whom Kurdish leaders in the North are increasingly cautious.
Still, Maliki's move makes sense as he is attempts to prevent conflict between the Iraqi Army's "Tigris Operations Command" and the Peshmerga. The TOC is seen by Kurdish leaders, especially those in Kirkuk, as being a serious threat to their sovereignty and security, while elements of the Iraqi Army are concerned with the strength of the Kurdish ethnic forces.
CKRO will continue to monitor this story and bring developments as they become available.
U.S. Role in Kirkuk
Larry Hanauer of the RAND Corporation has published a piece today via Globalsecurity.org titled "U.S. Role in Kirkuk Could Promote Peace, Prevent Conflict in Northern Iraq." Hanauer, who co-authored "Resolving Kirkuk" earlier this year with rule of law expert Laurel E. Miller, is a long-time Iraq watcher and intelligence expert.
The article recommends three steps: first, the United States' Secretary of State should appoint a special envoy for Kirkuk; second, there should be a move to de-militarize Kirkuk and turn security over to the local police, a more ethnically-representative body (who the U.S. would ostensibly train); and third, the U.S. should provide assistance to local leaders whose concerns are primarily those of service delivery and governance, rather than the national-level leaders who currently control the dialogue.
Though these recommendations do share many parallels with CKRO's own research, Mr. Hanauer's piece is tailored to U.S. policymakers and their immediate capacities. The abstract is available through Globalsecurity.org here.
UNAMI Head Visits Basra Electoral Officials
UN Special Representative for Iraq, Martin Kobler, has completed an official trip to Basra to discuss education, development, and electoral policy. During his time there, Kobler met the director of IHEC's Basra office, Mr. Hazim Joda. In a press release issued by UNAMI, IHEC believes that "preparations for the 2013 Governorate Council elections are on track."
More about the visit and related remarks are available through UNAMI, here.
Jailed PKK Members' Hunger Strike Continues
Nearly 700 PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) members and suspected PKK-sympathizers are continuing their hunger strike behind bars in Turkey. The prisoners have had no food for 7 weeks and doctors now warn that they may begin to die with 10 days. At least one jailed Member of Parliament from a pro-Kurdish party is reported to be participating in the hunger strike. The strikers demand better conditions for the leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, Abdullah Ocalan, who has been held in solitary confinement by Turkish authorities since his capture.
NATO, along with most Western nations, identifies the PKK as a terrorist organization. The history of violence between the PKK and Turkey stretches back almost three decades and has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
More is available on the hunger strike and the Turkish response via Reuters, by clicking here.
IED in Kirkuk Kills Child
A seven year old child was killed and three others wounded today after an improvised explosive device blew up in southern Kirkuk City. The device was reportedly left near a school building. Local authorities are investigating the attack.
CKRO will update this story as more details become available. Update: RFE is reporting today that the explosives were hidden in the body of a discarded motorbike and detonated as a local politician's convey passed. More details are available here.
Northern Oil Field Hiring Statistics: A Worry for Kirkuk's Mayor
Rudaw has published a piece today entitled "Kurdish Concerns over Former Ba'athists in Kirkuk Government Posts." One interesting note from the article is the Mayor of Kirkuk City's estimation of the province's population. He expects the population of the governorate to be roughly 1.5 million. CKRO's October estimate for the population is 1,255,000, and official statistics are considerably lower still.
The article considers the potential methods for distributing civil service and other jobs in the region. Kirkuk's mayor, Kamil Salayi, is especially concerned by the ethnic imbalance he says is present in the hiring of the workforce for the Northern Oil Fields and the purported discrimination against Turkmen and Kurds.
The full article is available, courtesy of Rudaw Politics, by clicking here.
IHEC: Governorate Council Elections Scheduled
The Independent High Electoral Commission has released the official date for the upcoming Governorate Council elections. The vote will be held on April 20, 2013.
140 Committee Takes up Boundary Demarcation
The Article 140 Committee will be back at the cartographic table this week, considering the administrative boundaries of the disputed territories.
UNAMI Head to Visit Kirkuk
Martin Kobler, the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), will be in Kirkuk this week meeting with local, regional, and national leaders. Kobler has repeatedly called for peaceful resolution of the myriad conflicts in the governorate in recent years. Observers hope that his presence will help to calm tensions simmering between forces loyal to Baghdad and those loyal to Erbil.
More about the visit is available through UNAMI, here.
Future of "Tigris Command Center" at Kirkuk Airport?
NIQASH Politics is reporting on the military center just west of Kirkuk City which opened this past September. The issues of joint-control of the facility and its ongoing mission have long been sources of disagreement; CKRO reported on friction during the return of the airbase to Iraqi control late last year. Yet this debate has become more pointed since the announcement that the center would be opened. Opposition has been particularly prominent among the Kurdish political parties, although Baghdad has argued that a strong military presence there is necessary to fill the "security vacuum."
A middle way has been proposed by Najat Hussein who sits on the provincial council and is a prominent member of a Turkmen political party. He is quoted by Niquash, saying "we want Kirkuk to be protected by forces mustered from within the city - so that they don't become part of this existing conflict." Though it remains to be seen if such a force will become a reality.
The entire story can be accessed here, courtesy of Niquash Politics.
Iran to Syria Flight Inspected in Iraq
CKRO has learned today that a cargo flight bound for Syria was forced to land in Baghdad and was searched for weapons before being allowed to resume its flight. The Iranian-flagged aircraft was suspected of carrying weapons intended for the government of Syria which has been involved in a violent civil conflict.
Kirkuk, Iraqi Kurdistan, and the whole of Iraq have absorbed a large number of refugees fleeing from the intense fighting in neighboring Syria, a conflict that analysts worry may increase in scope. The central government in Iraq has made clear that it does not want its territory or airspace used as "an arms corridor" for either the government or the rebels, though this inspection is the first which has garnered international attention.
CKRO will continue monitoring this story and bring any updates if they become available.
140 and Federalism: Where from Here?
David Romano's new article for Rudaw, A Way Forward on the Disputed Territories Issue, addresses the next steps for the KRG and central government to resolve their differences after the resolution of long-standing qualms over petrochemical revenue. He writes:
One can see why they have left the best for last. The first deadline for this article to be enacted was December 31, 2007, and since then a number of others were missed as well. Nothing seems to happen when it comes to moving Article 140 forward. That’s because of several problems. First, the article remains terribly ambiguous – what proportion of the people need to vote ‘yes’ for joining the Kurdistan Region? What if an entire subdistrict votes ‘no’ but a province as a whole votes ‘yes’? How shall the question be phrased, and who gets to vote (people expelled during the Arabization campaigns who have not returned, settlers, or just “bona fide” residents?)? Second, both a census and a referendum threaten to turn disputed territories into powder kegs of political violence as various groups try to influence or derail the process. Third, the whole issue is politically toxic: no Arab politician at this point can afford to be seen as “giving Kirkuk” (or other territories) to the Kurds. Doing so would amount to political suicide for them. Finally, no Kurdish leader feels like they can afford to retreat on Article 140, given how much they already said and staked on the issue.
He goes on to consider the consolidation (or centralization) of power as well as many of the other issues addressed by CKRO. His article is available online, courtesy of Rudaw, by clicking here.
Kirkuk Security: Airport Attacked
Reports today indicate that the IAF airbase south-west of Kirkuk was hit by several rockets. The attack took place shortly after the departure of Usama al-Nujayfi, Speaker of the Council of Representatives. CKRO will continue to track this story for developments.
KRG Endorses New Oil Deal with Baghdad
The Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Nechirvan Barzani, praised the central government's acceptance of a new petrochemical deal seen as a compromise between Iraq's two centers of power. The new deal, which will see Baghdad partner with the KRG in covering costs of oil exploration, will also ostensibly ensure the KRG's operating expenses are paid in accordance with preexisting law. Recent years have seen consistent arguments between Erbil and Baghdad over petrochemical revenues and operating budgets and it is hoped this new bilateral agreement will diffuse long-standing tensions.
To read more, courtesy of UNPO and Rudaw, click here.
Article 140 Committee: Six Years On
Adnan Hussein of Rudaw has an interesting write up today of this history and current political situation surrounding the Article 140 Committee. From the number of members, to the ethnic and partisan balance, nearly every facet of the committee has been contentious, leading observers to wonder if it will ever be effective. The piece curiously notes that none of the current members are from Kirkuk, despite the region's ample representation in the Parliament.
The full article is available courtesy of Rudaw, here.
Kirkuk Security: Car Bombs Kill 8
Eight job-seekers were killed in a car bomb attack in the city of Kirkuk today. The victims were among a group of residents waiting in line to apply for positions with a petrochemical company. Reuters is reporting as many as 60 others have been killed in series of coordinated attacks across the country today. A French consular building in the city of Nassiriya was also attacked with a bomb, wounding several local police. The attack in Kirkuk comes less than two weeks after another bomb attack which killed several police officers and sparked public outrage. It is also worth noting that many of today's attacks occurred after the announcement of a conviction of the country's vice president for conspiracy and murder, although no groups have as of yet claimed responsibility or explained a motivation. CKRO will continue tracking the security situation in Kirkuk and bring updates as they become available.
Vice President Sentenced to Death in Absentia
Tariq al-Hashimi, Iraq's Vice President has been sentenced in absentia to death for participation in two murders. Al-Hashimi and his son-in-law, co-defendants in the case, are suspected in scores of assassinations and bombings between 2005 and 2011, although the conviction is for the murder of a security official and a lawyer. The accusation, and indeed the conviction, is hugely controversial in Iraq and widely seen as political, the facts of the case notwithstanding. Al-Hashimi, a Sunni, was in frequent conflict with al-Maliki's Shi'a Dawa Party and with the Prime Minister himself.
CKRO first reported on the charges in December of last year. The formal charges were drawn up in the days after the last American troops withdrew from Iraq. Hashimi fled first to Iraqi Kurdistan, and then to Turkey in order to evade his arrest. The vice president offered to return for trial, so long as it was held in Kirkuk, an offer refused by the government in Baghdad. Hashimi will have 30 days to appeal the verdict and he is expected to release a statement shortly regarding the outcome of the trial.
Article 140 Commission Membership Reduction
The Commission for the Implementation of Article 140 (frequently called either the 140 Commission or the 140 Committee), tasked with carrying out requisite steps for the Kirkuk Status Referendum, will have its membership reduced from 34 MPs to 17. Members of the commission report that the change was effected by Usama al-Nujayfi, speaker of the Council of Representatives in order to "expedite the commission's work." While the change was widely expected, a handful of news sources, most-notably the Kurdistan News Agency, claim that the reduction in membership was prompted by the frequent absence of members from the Commission's prior members.
More is available, courtesy of the Kurdistan News Agency, by clicking here.
Kirkuk Security: Bomb Attack
A police convoy in Kirkuk was hit with an improvised bomb today, killing three and wounding six. All of the casualties are reported to be members of the city's police force.
Slow Pace of Normalization: 7,300 Families Remain Displaced
Rudaw, citing statistics from the Khanaqin property claims office, is reporting today that more than 7,000 families applying for redress of property have not yet had their claims processed. The families in question cannot provide documentation showing prior ownership of disputed land and so their claims cannot proceed. In order to prevent fraud or further unwarranted displacement, a relatively-high bar of proof is required to receive compensation or have property returned to an original owner. Still, many families with legitimate claim do not have the required ownership documents. Rudaw cites officials who blame the property rights commission and claim this is among the chief reasons that redress and "normalization" have yet to be completed.
More information is available via Rudaw, here.
Kirkuk Security: Rudaw Interviews Chief of Police
The news agency Rudaw has posted an interview with Lieutenant Jamal Tahir, the chief of police for the City of Kirkuk. The write-up leads with the provocative title "We Will Not Allow Iraqi Troops to Interfere in our Affairs," although the Lieutenant appears to only be stating that police duties are for police and national security duties are for the army, and never the two shall meet. Though the line does appear to imply a rivalry at the very least, he also alludes to cooperation, albeit legally-required. The interview covers many angles of the security situation in the city, from the demographic makeup of the police department, to the increased number of attacks in recent months, to the effect that the U.S. troop withdrawal has had on policing. The relatively-low number of police officers in the city is especially interesting, and troubling, from a security perspective given the growth of the city in recent years, although most of the claims cannot be independently verified.
To read the entire news write-up, courtesy of Rudaw, click here.
Kirkuk Energy: Governorate's Oil Exports on Hold
The Wall Street Journal is reporting today that the recent pipeline attack has resulted in an export freeze. More information is available via the WSJ here.
Kirkuk Security & Energy: New Pipeline Attacks in Turkey
Two car bombs were located and disarmed in Kirkuk today; at the same time, one of Iraq's major oil export pipelines to Turkey was damaged in an attack across the border. This stretch of pipeline carries crude oil from northern Iraq's oil fields, many of them in Kirkuk Governorate, into Turkey. It is not yet clear if the pipeline was bombed or sabotaged; recent pipeline explosions in the area have been blamed on the PKK. While the Kurdish-controlled North of Iraq relies on the oil revenue, fighters of the PKK have acted with increased hostility in recent months, even when it ensnares potential allies, in order to apply pressure to Turkey.
CKRO will continue to track this story and bring updates as they become available.
Article 140 Committee Meetings
The Committee for the Implementation of Article 140 met today in Baghdad to discuss the future of the Tasin neighborhood in the governorate of Kirkuk. The neighborhood was occupied during Ba'athist rule and its demographics were altered to favor the interests of that government. The committee determined that land within the neighborhood still needed to be returned to its "rightful owners" in order to meet the standard of demographic normalization.
More coverage of the meetings can be found through PUKmedia here.
Kirkuk Security: IEDs Wound Five
Three bombs were detonated in a coordinated attack in the city of Kirkuk today. Three civilians and two policemen were wounded, though none of their injuries are reported to be life-threatening. Additional explosive devices were found and diffused, though it is unclear who was the intended target of the foiled attack.
Commentator: Independent Kurdistan Unlikely
Shwan Zulal published an interesting piece in niqash regarding the likelihood of a fully-independent Kurdistan. The write-up gives brief treatment to the regional implications of an independent Kurdish state and argues that Turkey might actually be compelled to support such a move, if only for reasons of energy security. The most likely outcome, the author argues, is a semi-independent KRG-controlled zone emerging as regional player. As always, the question of Kirkuk's destiny figures heavily into the piece.
Read the full article courtesy of niqash politics, here.
Kirkuk Infrastructure: Electricity
The Kurdistan News Agency is reporting that those living in Kirkuk Governorate have 20 hours per day of electricity available through the province's grid. The figures, quoted from officials in Kirkuk, also disclose the approximate cost of energy in the province: approximately $120 million. Residents frequently rely on personal or community generators for the remaining hours each day, often at great personal expense. Still, infrastructure development has fared better in the governorate than elsewhere in Iraq, and energy prices, whether from the grid or local generators, are generally lower there.
The full article is available through the Kurdistan News Agency, here.
Journalists Encounter Resistance in Kirkuk
Iraq already has the notorious title of most dangerous country for journalists, but Kirkuk Now reports troubles of another sort: non-enforcement of open information laws. According to their article, journalists in the governorate face consistent difficulties as they attempt to report on official corruption, despite laws guaranteeing access and protections. This further compounds problems stemming from a paucity of reporters and investigative journalists in the governorate.
The entire article is available in Arabic online here, courtesy of Kirkuk Now.
Population Count in Kirkuk
A semi-official census is being conducted in central Kirkuk until July 1st. The population count has apparently already uncovered a substantial number of families living in Kirkuk illegally, as with those who have taken money to relocate under the normalization plan yet not actually left the area. It does not appear that this count is being coordinated with IHEC or with the oversight of all political parties. Rather, the census is being conducted by 127 headmen who distribute a form that will discern "original inhabitants" from settlers and refugees.
The process of undertaking a census in the area has been seen as highly contentious, as doing so would move the region one step closer to fulfilling Article 140 of the constitution, as well as potentially being the basis for a voter registration system. Fears of intimidation and malfeasance are sufficiently serious to have delayed the count several times in the past few years.
The Kurdistan News Agency is covering the count, you can read more here. CKRO will monitor this situation closely and publish updates as they become available.
Kirkuk Security: Three Car Bombs in City
At least thirty people were wounded in Kirkuk today as three coordinated car bombs were detonated near the headquarters of the PUK and a mosque. Three fatalities are being reported, while attacks in other parts of Iraq today claimed the lives of at least 80 civilians.
KRG Council Elections Postponed Indefinitely
CKRO has learned that the Kurdistan Region's Governorate Council elections were postponed indefinitely as of last night. We will post more information once it becomes available.
Update: UNAMI's IEAT confirms the cancelation and is reporting that IHEC's Kurdistan Region Electoral Office has discontinued all operational preparations for the vote. The major parties are now in negotiations regarding when and how to hold the next vote.
Turkmen Front: Send UN Observers to Kirkuk
Fearing an impending armed conflict between the KRG and Baghdad, the Iraqi Turkmen Front is requesting that the United Nations send neutral observers to Kirkuk. The head of the Turkmen Front, Arshad Salhi, went on to argue that "normalization" was not the solution and that "amending the Constitution is the only way to find [a compromise on] the issue of Kirkuk and the disputed territories."
The written request and an interview of Arshad Salhi are available through al-Monitor, here.
Disputed Territories, Oil, and Article 140
Rudaw is running an overview / editorial piece on article 140's implementation and the recent difficulties in the Baghdad-Kirkuk relationship. Energy politics and the financial stake of each player feature heavily in the article. Please note demographic statistics contained within are from the last trustworthy census from the 1950s - hardly a wholly reliable count after 60 years, ethnic cleansing, wars, and population mobility. Still, the article is an interesting take on the current issues. Read the full write-up here, courtesy of Rudaw.
KRG Oil Deal with Turkey Fueling Separatist Concerns
A new oil pipeline deal between Turkey and the Kurdistan Regional Government has cut Baghdad out of the equation and is being seen as another strain between the semi-autonomous region and the central government. With ever-increasing financial resources, the KRG is becoming gradually more independent, as well as more vocal in its calls for Kirkuk to join the bloc. With an estimated 30-40% of Iraq's oil wealth in the Kirkuk region, the stakes could hardly be higher.
More information on the pipeline agreement, and its financial implications, can be read here, courtesy of UPI.
Al-Hashimi in Turkey after Arrest Order
Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashimi, who previously had been avoiding Baghdad's orders for his arrest by remaining in the Kurdistan Region, has crossed into Turkey. Hashimi is now in Ankara protesting the charges against him as politically-motivated. Hashimi, a senior member of the al-Iraqiya party, is accused of providing information and support to a Sunni militia that killed elected officials, civilians, and members of the Iraqi Army. His political party has repeatedly requested that his trial be held in Kirkuk, a move which the central government and the judiciary have dismissed. It appears likely that Baghdad will file extradition paperwork with Ankara shortly in an attempt to force the vice president to return and face charges.
Georgetown's Center for Kirkuk Referendum Operations will continue to follow this story and publish updates as they develop.
PM in Kirkuk for Talks
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki spent the day in Kirkuk today, meeting with local leaders and his cabinet. This is only the second time al-Maliki has convened such a meeting away from Baghdad and is likely a move meant to express the connections between the governorate and the central government.
An English translation of the article is available via CRI-English by clicking here. Update: further coverage has been provided on the visit by Rudaw, available here. An editorialized reflection on the meeting and its implications for Baghdad-Kirkuk relations is available here.
Governor of Kirkuk on PUK/KDP Disputes
Rudaw has published an extensive interview with the governor of Kirkuk, Najmaldin Karim. One of the issues addressed in the interview is the political divide between the PUK and the KDP in Kurdistan which has resulted in two parallel political administrations, two competing security forces, and a multitude of other duplicative structures in government.
The full text of the interview is available here, courtesy of Rudaw.
Iraqi Election Officials Arrested
The Center for Kirkuk Referendum Operations has learned that two members of the electoral commission have been placed under arrest after corruption charges were filed against them. The two were named as Faraj al-Haidari, the chief of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), and Karim al-Tamimi, another senior official. Both men claim innocence and believe the charges to be politically-motivated.
CKRO will update this story as we learn more.
Kirkuk Security: 19 Suspects Escape
Mustafa Mahmoud in Kirkuk is reporting that nineteen terrorism suspects escaped from a jail in the police compound in central Kirkuk today.
The full report is being carried by Reuters, here.
Kurdish Dissent in Syria and Implications for Iraq
The Washington Post's Irbil correspondent wrote a piece today regarding the role of dissent among the Kurdish minority in Syria against the al-Assad regime and some of the implications for the KRG in Iraq. Turkey in particular appears worried that empowered Kurdish populations on both sides of the Syria-Iraq border will reignite separatist tensions in the south of that country. Consequently, Turkish support of the opposition in Syria has been designed so as to not cede unnecessarily any power to the PKK. The president of the KRG, meanwhile, is pressing for solidarity among Kurds in Syria and pressuring them to avoid violence at all costs.
To read the full article, courtesy of the Washington Post, click here.
Iraq Interior Ministry: Vice President may Flee Kurdistan
Multiple news outlets are reporting today that the Iraqi Interior Ministry has today asked Kurdish authorities to arrest Vice President Tareq al-Hashimi.
Hashimi, of the al-Iraqiya party, is accused of providing information and support to a Sunni militia that killed elected officials, civilians, and members of the Iraqi Army. The central government in Baghdad brought these charges against the vice president this past December at the height of a political conflict between the main Shi'a and Sunni blocs in Parliament. Since that point, Hashimi has remained in territory under control of the KRG in Northern Iraq. As CKRO reported in January, Hashimi's party requested his trial be held in Kirkuk, a move which the central government and the judiciary dismissed. Now that Baghdad is ordering the KRG to turn over Hashimi, a number of questions regarding federalism in Iraq are being debated. The precedent being developed by the KRG in handling the current arrest warrant will serve to shape the future of power-sharing between the semi-autonomous region and the central government with regard to matters of criminal law.
Georgetown's Center for Kirkuk Referendum Operations will continue to follow this story and publish developments as they occur.
Kirkuk Infrastructure: Three New Power Plants to be Built
Kirkuk is taking steps to ensure energy independence from the rest of Iraq. The governorate agreed to the construction of three power plants and the related electrical infrastructure to supply the whole province with power, regardless of the status of the rest of the country's grid.
Kirkuk Security: Twin Car Bombings Target Police
The homes of two prominent policemen were targeted by car bombs in Kirkuk today. One person is reportedly dead and twenty-two others are wounded.
Hashimi: Hold My Trial in Kirkuk
The Iraqiya bloc is demanding that if any charges are to be brought against Vice President Hashimi, they should be done in Kirkuk, as it is a neutral arbiter in the dispute. Hashimi has told the media he does not believe it is possible to receive a fair trial in Baghdad, although the judiciary disagrees. A federal court panel has already rejected the request as out of order. CKRO will continue tracking this story.
Kirkuk Home Registration Plan may Prompt Demolitions
Kirkuk Now is reporting that the Governor of Kirkuk Governorate has issued an order prohibiting new home construction without a permit. Homes built hereafter without the proper registration and permitting will be demolished by local authorities. This is, ostensibly, part of a plan to better control growth and track demography in the growing city, the population and identity of which are still hotly contested.
Warrant Issued for Arrest of Iraq's Vice President
In what may be Iraq's political story of the year, charges are being drawn up against Tariq al-Hashimi, Iraq's Vice President. CNN is reporting that PM al-Maliki announced today the country's Sunni vice president is wanted for allegedly organizing a "death squad" that targeted members of the military and government officials. For his part, Hashimi is denying the charges, saying that they are politically motivated.
Hashimi leads the al-Iraqiya bloc which is dominated by Sunnis and has been mired in political combat against al-Maliki's Shi'a Dawa Party, a part of the Watani List. Hashimi, now a wanted man, has reportedly fled to territory under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government where Baghdad's law enforcement cannot reach him. The emerging imbroglio is damaging already strained relations between the main Sunni and Shi'a blocs and now threatens to draw the Kurdish parties into the political fray.
Kirkuk Security: NYT Interviews
As the final troops were leaving Iraq, an Iraqi reporter working for the NY Times asked residents to share their thoughts.
Last U.S. Forces Have Left Iraq
The final American troops have left Iraq tonight. All facilities once occupied by the U.S. military have either been turned over to Iraqi security forces or left to local communities to deal with as they please. The departure was quiet; the exact date for the pullout being kept secret for security reasons. After Washington and Baghdad failed to come to an agreement regarding ongoing trainers in the country, the departure before the year's end was certain per the previous statutory agreement between the two countries. The departure brings to an end the eight and a half year long war and occupation that began in spring of 2003. While this may mark a new chapter for the government of Iraq, for the people of the country, questions of security, economic recovery, and good governance remain central concerns, just as they have been for years.
Kirkuk Security: Police Diffuse Two Car Bombs One Day after Attack
Local police diffused two car bombs on the outskirts of Kirkuk today. This comes one day after an Iraqi petrochemical specialist was assassinated by magnetic "sticky bomb" in Kirkuk. Violence remains common across the country, although Kirkuk has enjoyed a period of relative calm.
Kurdistan Pressuring PKK to Stop Violence
CKRO has learned that Massoud Barzani, the president of the KRG, plans to make a formal announcement that his administration is in talks with the PKK to cease cross-border attacks on Turkey. Border villages seen as hideouts for members of the PKK have come under heavy attack from Turkish forces in recent weeks after a series of high-profile cross border raids by the militant group killed two dozen Turkish service members and triggered outrage in Ankara.
Iraq Security: All U.S. Forces to Leave Iraq
All U.S. soldiers remaining in Iraq will have left the country before the end of the year. Approximately 10,000 American troops are in the country at the moment, primarily in training roles, but they will be turning over their facilities and departing the country in the coming weeks. CKRO will bring you more information as it becomes public.
Kirkuk Security: Handover from U.S. to Iraqi Forces Exposes Rifts
A standoff between local Peshmerga and Iraqi Army troops took place during the handover of an American-operated airbase in the North of the country. Local security forces were wary of allowing troops from the central government to take possession of a military installation so close to Kirkuk and the KRG border region. Senior military officials from the Army were prevented from entering the base and taking control until an agreement was struck between the two parties and the U.S. military in Baghdad.
Energy: KRG and ExxonMobil Sign Deal, Cut Baghdad Out
Business news sites today are reporting that ExxonMobil has signed an oil exploration deal directly with the Kurdistan Regional Government, leaving out the central government. The oil ministry, and the government in Baghdad more generally, are declaring the deal illegal, but have yet to take any steps to bar it from moving forward. This is not the first rift between Erbil and Baghdad over oil exploration and exports, but it is certainly one of the largest.
Governorate and KRG Border Demarcation
President Jalal Talabani has plans to redraw the borders of the governorates, reports Abdullah al-Amiri through KurdNet. Whatever the boundaries of the new map, any redistricting plan must be submitted to Parliament for adoption. The al-Iraqiya List has expressed initial concern over the proposal, calling the timing "not suitable."
BBC Timeline on Kurdistan
The BBC has added a timeline of the Kurdistan region from 1918 to the present. It's an interesting reference for anyone wanting to get a rough outline of some key events that shape the present-day political landscape in Northern Iraq.
Electoral Update: Disagreements Delaying Provincial Elections
With Baghdad managing elections in the KRG, talks over the formation of a Kurdistan Region Higher Electoral Committee have stalled. An interesting write-up on the situation was published today in Erbil's Kurdish Globe.
Iraq Security: 10,000 Turkish Troops in Offensive Against PKK
The Washington Post reports that the continued offensive by the armed forces of Turkey has continued to expand, and as many as 10,000 troops are engaged in combat in Northern Iraq.
The same article quotes Najmaldin Karim, the governor of the Kirkuk Governorate, as speaking out about the importance of "an extended U.S. presence" in order to train local troops in the disputed regions of Iraq. Ongoing negotiations have not reached a consensus between Baghdad and Washington, and it seems increasingly unlikely that a decision will be reached before the end of 2011. The most recent request by Iraq's central government was for 5,000 U.S. military trainers, although without legal immunity, a precondition that the Pentagon has demanded for any continued presence.
AP: Turkey's Military Attacking PKK in Northern Iraq
Associated Press reporters in Ankara are reporting today that Turkish forces are bombarding targets in Northern Iraq believed to belong to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The attacks are in retaliation for a cross-border raid carried out by the PKK earlier today that killed 24 Turkish soldiers and wounded 20 more. The offensive has tentatively been endorsed by NATO, of which Turkey has been a member since 1952. NATO, along with most Western nations, identify the PKK as a terrorist organization. The history of violence between the PKK and Turkey stretches back almost three decades and has claimed tens of thousands of lives. Baghdad has not, as of yet, officially commented on the situation.
Kirkuk Security: Turkmen Party Targeted
Hurriyet Daily News is reporting that two bombs were used to attack the headquarters of the Iraqi Turkmen Front in Kirkuk today. The building was destroyed, although no serious injuries have been reported as of yet. The ITFP's electoral share in Kirkuk is second only to the PUK. While most elected officials do not spend a great deal of time in the headquarters building, it is frequented by many staffers and volunteers. We will continue tracking this story and update it as details emerge.
To read more, courtesy of the Daily News, please visit original releases here.
Kirkuk Security: U.S. Forces may Withdraw by Year's End
The Australian is reporting today that the Pentagon may be scrapping plans to leave U.S. troops in Iraq into 2012. While the U.S. Department of Defense is denying early reports, time is indeed running out for Iraqi lawmakers to approve a plan for trainers and support staff to remain in the country. The issue being discussed is legal immunity for American military personnel in the country.
The White House refuses to leave troops in the country unless their immunity from prosecution is approved by the parliament-a demand not likely to be met by Iraqi MPs. Whatever the outcome of the negotiations, the major U.S. embassy in Baghdad, as well as substantial diplomatic missions in Kirkuk, Irbil, and elsewhere will continue to house considerable numbers of troops for security in addition to their diplomatic staff. However, should an agreement not be reached before year's end (truth be told, sometime well before that cutoff), the security arraignment in Kirkuk and elsewhere in Iraq will likely change remarkably.
Article 140 and Federalism: Sadr Warns Kurds
The Kurdish Globe is reporting today that Muqtada al-Sadr is warning against an expanded KRG and the "dangers of federalism." Meanwhile, the Iraqi Council of Ministers is ordering a report and timetable for the implementation of Article 140, which calls for a referendum over the disputed territories.
Rudaw: No Progress on Article 140
Rudaw has an interesting analysis today of the problems and delays of implantation of Article 140. Of particular financial interest is the report from MP Latif Sheikh Mustafa of the Gorran List that the central government has allocated around 1.75T dinar for compensation arising out of Article 140 disputes.
Kirkuk Security: Troop Drawdown Projections Released
The Obama Administration and Department of Defense have announced an intention to keep 3,000-5,000 US military personnel in Iraq past the end of the year, with the remaining 40,000 departing by December. As of yet, the Iraqi government has not agreed to any troop presence; this agreement will be legally necessary if any trainers or other military personnel are to remain. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has consistently supported an extension of the US military presence, however his governing coalition is strongly opposed. The proposal is also drawing mixed reactions in the United States where Republicans and Democrats in the Congress are locked in debate over the proposal.
More information is available courtesy of the Washington Post by clicking here.
Kirkuk Economy: Pressuring Baghdad on Energy Policy
Officials in Kirkuk are again increasing pressure on the national government in Baghdad to revise legal profit-sharing mechanisms. Reports today indicate that Kirkuk's oil fields will be adding 350,000 - 400,000 BPD of oil production over the next five years, nearly doubling production. It is estimated that Kirkuk is home to as much as one third of Iraq's oil and natural gas reserves. While the high concentration of natural resources in the Kirkuk governorate makes its internal stability and well-being economically central to the rest of the country, there are strong incentives for the government in Baghdad to leave the profit-sharing balance alone.
Kirkuk Security: Deadliest Day in Iraq this Year
Over 40 coordinated attacks took place in Iraq today, claiming lives in most major cities, including Kirkuk. 89 are reported dead and over 300 wounded. The security situation in Kirkuk has slowly improved over the past year, although violence of this nature shows that insurgents still have the capacity to maim and kill on a large scale.
Ongoing coverage of the attacks is available courtesy of the New York Times by clicking here.
Kirkuk Security: Interview with Masrour Barzani
Covering a range of topics related to the future of Kirkuk and the KRG, the head of the Kurdistan Region Security Protection Agency considers the forthcoming drawdown of US troops from Iraq. "The U.S. troops exist in other parts of Iraq, but not in Kurdistan. The Kurdistan Region is protected by the Peshmerga […] and the other security forces."
Read the entire English translation of the interview, courtesy of The Kurdish Globe by clicking here.
Hadi al-Amri is Likely Appointee to Article 140 Committee
Kurdish MPs are reacting to the anticipated selection of Transportation Minister Hadi al-Amri to head the Committee for the Implementation of Article 140. The implementation of Article 140 of the Constitution of Iraq has been much slower than Kurdish parties have desired, and MPs are voicing concerns that Amri's close political ties to Iran will further hamper efforts to conduct pre-referendum operations. Political leadership in Iran has made clear its preference that Kirkuk remain a clearly-subordinate sub-unit of Iraq's national government, as Tehran is concerned with the KRG's growth in size and influence in the region.
Early information regarding the selection is available courtesy of Rudaw by clicking here.
The Center for Kirkuk Referendum Operations has learned that officials from the US State Department will be meeting this week with representatives from the national government and Kirkuk to discuss ongoing security concerns regarding Kirkuk as the US continues its military drawdown in Iraq. The level of US military presence in Iraq, and especially in Kirkuk, has been politically contentious, and no clear decision has been issued by the government in Baghdad as of yet. CKRO will update this story as more information becomes available.
"The Constitution is more than Simply a Piece of Paper"
The Kurdish Globe has today published an editorial by Bashdar Pusho Ismaeel that offers a viewpoint into much of the tension in Kirkuk, and indeed Iraq, today. The piece laments the deadlock, and makes clear the many pitfalls facing the region.
The piece is available on the Kurdish Globe's website, here.
Kirkuk Governor: Foreign Troops Should Remain
Kirkuk's Governor Najmaddin Karim formally requested today that coalition troops remain stationed near Kirkuk to help with training troops and supporting the region's checkpoint system. Hallo Najat, the chief of security in Kirkuk also expressed concerns that the security situation will worsen once US troops withdraw.
Kirkuk Infrastructure: Power Outages
Multiple news sources have reported rolling blackouts throughout Kirkuk for the past few days. The central government in Baghdad is currently considering a plan to allow Kirkuk governorate to purchase excess electricity from the KRG. More on this story as it develops.
KRG President: Kirkuk an Inseparable from Kurdistan
In an interview with the Kurdish Globe, the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Massoud Barzani, has stated publically that his position is that Kirkuk is an inseparable part of Kurdistan. "If Article 140 dies, the constitution would die, and if the constitution dies, Iraq's unity would die as well" he said. The interview is extensive and covers everything from his relationship with the PUK to his views on economic growth, and the political future of the region.
To read the full interview at the Kurdish Globe, click here.
New Broadcast Station Launches in Kirkuk
The Kirkuk Channel has begun transmitting across the governorate with the slogan "voice and color of coexistence." Unlike most media in Iraq which is target to a specific demographic, the Kirkuk Channel will be broadcast in Arabic, Kurdish, Turkmen, and Syriac. The channel employs people from all these ethnic groups to help create content.
Kirkuk Governor: Elections and Increased Autonomy Urgent
In an interview with the Kurdish Globe, Kirkuk's Governor Najmaddin Karim has stressed the importance of carving out increased autonomy for the governorate. "It is urgent we have an election in Kirkuk to increase the powers of the governorate and the governing council," he said. The Governor also hinted that elements within the central government were trying to prevent such acts from taking place, displaying a distrust of Baghdad often held by elected officials in the semi-autonomous area.
Hallo Najat, the chief of security in Kirkuk, lamented the dipolar influences of the central government and the KRG. "We have become victims between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the central government." He said. Citizens of Kirkuk "have lost faith in the government in Baghdad. We want the KRG to resolve [their issues] with Baghdad as soon as possible; the sooner that happens, the better off the citizens of the city will be." He also shared other concerns with the Globe, especially dealing with the checkpoint system for the city.
The full interview and related coverage are available through the Kurdish Globe by clicking here.
Muslims and Christians in Iraq Together to Pray for Peace
The AFP is reporting today that 1,500 Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen from different religions and sects gathered at a Cathedral in Kirkuk in a show of solidarity. Recent weeks have seen an uptick in violence in the city of Kirkuk, but the groups gathered today to show peacefully their desire to prevent such attacks in the future.
Read the full story, courtesy of Google News by clicking here.
Kirkuk Security: Policy Convoy Hit by Car Bomb
Al Jazeera is reporting today that two were killed and ten to fifteen were wounded today when a car bomb exploded as a security convoy passed. The attack was apparently targeting the motorcade which was carrying an Iraqi police chief.
Proposed Demilitarization of Disputed Territories Taken Off the Table
Elected officials in Iraq are responding to the publication of an ICG report that CKRO reported on in late March and early April of this year. Contrary to some of the recommendations in that report, several officials are contending that military presence is necessary, Rudaw has reported.
One of the most outspoken critics of the plan was Khasro Gorran, a former deputy governor of Mosul and an occasionally controversial figure in the Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan. He insisted that the areas of Kirkuk or Mosul under Peshmerga control were more peaceful than areas outside of its control. For his part, the Peshmerga defense minister Jaafar Mustafa concurred, arguing that more Kurdish troops were needed, saying “the police cannot control the regions outside of the city of Kirkuk. The police are only within the city.”
Read more courtesy of Rudaw here.
Kirkuk Security: Multiple Car Bombs Kill 29
Multiple news sources are reporting today that several car bombs struck across the city of Kirkuk today, killing 29 and wounding nearly 100. After the first bombs detonated the subsequent devices were timed to explode once emergency responders arrived. Many of the bombs were apparently placed in booby-trapped vehicles.
Kirkuk Security: Car Bombs Diffused
Aswat al-Iraq is reporting that three car bombs were successfully diffused in Kirkuk yesterday.
Tareq Aziz Sentenced to Life in Prison for Killing Kurds
Tareq Aziz, former Iraqi Foreign Minister and longtime advisor to President Saddam Hussein, has been given a lifetime prison sentence by the Supreme Court of Iraq. This sentence results from his involvement in the displacement and killing of Kurds starting during the Iran-Iraq war, and continuing until the late 1990s.
Kirkuk Security: Political Assassination
Colonel Nouzad Talabani of the PUK was assassinated by gunmen outside his home in Kirkuk. Though violence is down substantially this year, bombings and assassination attempts against members of the military and political organizations remain high.
Provincial Council Elections to be Held Soon
Ad Melkert, UN Special Representative to Iraq, was in Kirkuk today to announce that the parties involved had agreed to schedule provincial elections soon. Also discussed was the area's security situation. According to the UNAMI chief, there was agreement among those in attendance that a UN peacekeeping detachment would not be necessary in the disputed areas after US troops depart. CKRO will publish additional news as it becomes available.
More information is available courtesy of Aswat al-Iraq, by clicking here.
Kirkuk Security Update
Three bomb blasts are being reported today in the city of Kirkuk. At least one person has died and nineteen other injured. Seven of the wounded were security personnel; six were Kurdish security forces, and one a policeman.
News Kirkuk News Site Launches
The news site Kirkuk Now has officially launched in English. Stories they are covering include the recent protests in the city, the security situation in Kirkuk, the Committee for the Implementation of Article 140, and news from Kirkuk University, among others. The site is offered in English, Kurdish, Arabic, and Turkmen. To visit the main news page, click here.
Kirkuk Census in the News
Al Jazeera recently aired a short segment on the delayed Kirkuk census. To watch the Al Jazeera story via YouTube, click here.
Kirkuk Security: Update
Rudaw is reporting that two additional attacks took place in Kirkuk yesterday, one apparently targeting a public official. The deputy police chief of one of Kirkuk's districts was targeted by a remotely-detonated bomb. He survived the attack and is being treated for his injuries. A member of the Sahwa, a Sunni militia loyal to the central government, was killed in a separate attack.
Full coverage is available courtesy of Rudaw, by clicking here.
Kirkuk Security: Car Bombing
The Associated Press is reporting today that a car bomb exploded in Kirkuk today killing one and wounding another 18.
International Crisis Group: Kirkuk Disagreements Could Trigger Iraq Break-up
A report issued this week by the International Crisis Group (ICG), warned about the possible consequences of a stand-off occurring between the Iraqi army and the Kurdish Peshmerga. Turkomen parties in particular have voiced their growing displeasure with the situation in Kirkuk, which is increasingly being referred to as an occupation. The central government remains at an impasse regarding what step to take next. Prime Minister al-Maliki would no doubt like to see the Peshmerga forces withdrawn, although he must retain the confidence of Kurdish MPs, many of whom support the deployment. This situation is difficult for both al-Maliki and the remaining American forces in the country.
In an interview with Rudaw, Joost Hiltermann, the deputy director of the International Crisis Group's Middle East program, said that “unless either a political deal is reached…or a workable alternative arrangement to the combined security mechanism is created without a direct US troop presence,” the chances of conflict in the ethnically-mixed areas of northern Iraq will increase. It appears that the United States too is becoming impatient with the deployment which officials fear may complicate the final drawdown of American military in the country.
The ICG report advises renewed negotiations over the status of disputed territories, as well other key issues such as the census and the stalled hydrocarbons law. The report also encourages UNAMI to release a report drafted in 2009 which included potential solutions to the Kirkuk dispute outside of what is currently being pursued.
Members of Kirkuk Provincial Council Mediate Ethnic Quarrel
Students at the Technical Institute of Kirkuk were involved in heated disputes earlier this week which resulted in an armed melee and as many as 16 injuries. Of the four members of the Kirkuk Provincial Council who visited the school and intervened, two stepped in to jumpstart talks between the Kurdish and Turkomen student groups involved. A peaceful agreement was reached and each party agreed to hold their own belligerents to account.
To read the full story, courtesy of the Kurdistan News Agency, click here.
Kirkuk: New Provincial Council Leader, Governor
Georgetown University's Center for Kirkuk Referendum Operations has learned that Najmaldin Karim (of the PUK) has taken the post of Governor and Hassan Turhan (of the Iraqi Turcoman Front) has been selected as head of the Provincial Council. CKRO will provide additional information as it becomes available.
Tension in Central Government Coalitions Resulting from Peshmerga in Kirkuk
The Kurdish Peshmerga forces deployed around the city of Kirkuk are drawing increased criticism from the Al-Iraqiyah bloc in Council of Representatives. The deployment, which began in early February, was apparently undertaken to protect ethnic Kurds from bombings and other attacks during general unrest in the area. The ongoing presence of troops, which now numbers around 5,000, has tried the patience of local political leaders, and is increasingly straining relations between the parties in Baghdad.
Parliament deputies and members of several political parties are laying the blame for the situation on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and American military advisors. The political situation is becoming increasingly tense now that members of the Al-Iraqiyah bloc have started condemning the deployment as an "occupation." Yesterday, MP Hamid al-Mutlaq, of Al-Iraqiyah bloc, spoke to Radio Free Iraq and said that "the Peshmerga forces should pull out sooner rather than later, as their deployment is illegal."
Though Al-Iraqiyah holds the largest number of seats in the Council of Representatives with 91, al-Maliki's holds the position of Prime Minister, his own State of Law Coalition commanding 89 seats. Because of the delicate nature of the coalition government, al-Maliki must retain the confidence both of Al-Iraqiyah MPs and those from the Kurdistan Alliance.
Read continuing coverage, courtesy of Radio Free Europe, by clicking here.
Protests Prompting Talk of Early Elections
Massud Barzani, President of Iraqi Kurdistan, is indicating openness to holding early elections in the autonomous region following sustained protests and discontent. "I ask the parliament to consult political parties to study the possibility of early elections, because the people should decide and give their opinion and judgment," he said to reporters.
Read the entire article, courtesy of the Jakarta Globe, by clicking here.
Kirkuk Security: Car Bombing
Reuters is reporting today that a car bomb exploded in Kirkuk today killing three and wounding another 25. This is the second such bombing in a week.
NYT: Delays in Iraq Complicate US Drawdown
Jack Healy and Michael S. Schmidt of New York Times are reporting today that Iraq's delays last year in forming a coalition government has complicated the situation for removing American troops from that country. For example, the lack of confirmed ministers in posts dealing security has policymakers questioning whether the planned contingent of State Department staffers, support staff, and contractors who will remain in Iraq after the last troops leave will be sufficient to address ongoing challenges. Work is being done to prepare consulates in the Kurdistan region and in Iraq's south, as well as American embassies in places like Kirkuk. Not only are the lack of appointments in Iraq problematic, but the budget process in the US is also causing headaches. Without a clear idea of how much Congress is willing to spend for ongoing support, the scope of future work to be done in Iraq is far from certain. So the question remains, what is the US's role in Iraq going to look like? To what extent will the Iraqi government request support? And will the planned contingent to be left in the country be able to provide that support, especially in complex cases like Kirkuk?
Update: Peshmerga Deployment Near Kirkuk
The Al Sumaria television network reports that the Peshmerga continue to remain deployed around the city of Kirkuk. Mohsen Al Saadun, a member of the Kurdistan Alliance, is defending the deployment saying that Article 140 renders such acts legal. The government in Baghdad has been guarded in their response to the unfolding situation. Al-Maliki is certainly feeling pressure from his core constituency to force out the troops, but at the same time he must try to preserve friendly relations with the Kurdish bloc which is a critical ally in his coalition.
Kirkuk Security: Car Bomb
A car bomb exploded in Kirkuk today wounding 20 people. A second bomb was discovered and diffused.
Breaking News: Peshmerga Security Forces Deployed to Kirkuk
The Center for Kirkuk Referendum Operations has learned that Kurdish Peshmerga forces numbering approximately 4,200 have been deployed around the city of Kirkuk during ongoing protests in the area. Presently, there are conflicting reports as to the nature of and rationale for the deployments as the Kurdish, Turkoman, and Arab blocs in the Kirkuk Provincial Council voice divergent positions. The Arab and Turkoman groups are concerned that the deployment is occupational in nature and will further fray strained relations. The Kurdish bloc contends that the troops are necessary to prevent bomb attacks on the city. Although a curfew has been imposed throughout the area, observers believe the Peshmerga will only remain around the city for a short time before pulling back.
Deputy Speaker: Arabization Continues in Kirkuk
The Aswat al-Iraq news agency is reporting today that Arif Tayfour, Deputy Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, is concerned that the process of "Arabization" is continuing in and around Kirkuk. Part of a statement released today read "there are still some lackeys of the former regime that try to create problems, shake stability and security in disputed areas and scupper Article 140 of the Constitution, voted over by most Iraqis."
The Ba'ath Party, which ruled Iraq from 1968-2003, engaged in numerous ethnic cleansing policies to change the demographics of Kirkuk. Many forced relocations displaced ethnic Kurds and Turkomen from Kirkuk while increasing the Arab population of the area, these programs are frequently referred to as Arabization.
Security Update: Turkish Nationals Kidnapped in Kirkuk
The Associated Press is reporting today that three Turkish nationals have been kidnapped in Kirkuk. Those kidnapped were apparently employed by a mechanical servicing company specializing in the construction and maintenance of elevators and air conditioning systems. Kirkuk's Chief of Police, Jamal Tahir, explained that there were at least two other Turkish citizens working for the same company who witnessed the kidnapping, but were not taken. Tahir said that the victims were not authorized to be in the country and that additional security would have been provided for them had they made their presence known.
Although kidnappings for ransom or political reasons have been troublingly high in Iraq over the past few years, Kirkuk has seen a steady decline in such crimes over the short-term. This is the second high-profile kidnapping in Kirkuk since the start of the year.
al-Iraqiya Lawmaker: Support Kirkuk Referendum
Maysun Damaluji, a senior lawmaker in the al-Iraqiya List, has declared her support, and that of her party for implementation of Article 140 and the eventual referendum in Kirkuk. Speaking to the media, Ms Damaluji said "we say Kirkuk’s identity is Iraqi, as is the identity of the Kurdistan region. The fate of Kirkuk is in the hands of its population. It’s only them who can decide on it, not anybody else. Kirkuk is not our property to give to the Kurds or any other party."
Al-Iraqiya and the Kurdistani Alliance posted similar levels of support in Kirkuk during the 2010 parliamentary election, and Iraqiya considers the area important to their political future.
Demonstrations in Kirkuk
Around 200 protestors turned out today in Kirkuk, calling for jobs, government reform, more autonomy, better service delivery, and lower fuel prices – to name a few. The protests in Kirkuk follow weeks increasing unrest throughout the Middle East characterized by large-scale street demonstrations.
The views expressed through news articles herein do not necessarily reflect those of Georgetown University or of Center for Kirkuk Referendum Operations. While we try to keep the summaries of daily news on this page as impartial as possible, it is not always possible to do so. The stories to which we provide links do not always make such efforts; nonetheless, their content remains of great importance to the future of the Referendum. If you would like to learn more about our research, please contact us.
What is CKRO?
The Center for Kirkuk Referendum Operations (CKRO) is a collaborative initiative of the Center for Democracy and Society at Georgetown University. A policy institute and professional network, CKRO seeks to enable a successful vote in Iraq and refine the model for status referenda worldwide.
You can contact the Center at any time via email at CKRO@georgetown.edu.
From the Democracy and Society Blog
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