Kurdish Leader Warns of Iraqi Civil War

August 02, 2007 04:42 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The president of Iraq’s Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani, warns of a “real civil war” if the Iraqi government fails to take action on Kurdish claims over the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

30-Second Summary

The Kurds are often referred to as the largest national group in the world without an independent nation.

Living in the northeastern region of Iraq that they call Kurdistan, the Kurds are one of the three most important ethnic groups in Iraq, along with the Sunnis and the Shiites.

The Kurds have proven an important ally to U.S. forces in Iraq. A 10,000-strong Kurdish force works alongside U.S. troops in Baghdad.

But the debate over their claim to the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk has complicated this relationship.

Kirkuk is considered by many Kurds to be the “heart of Kurdistan,” because it is both a historically Kurd-dominated city, and it stands as a symbol of Kurdish resistance to Saddam Hussein.

Under Saddam, the Kurds endured a Baathist program of forced “Arabization”—when southern Shia Arabs were paid to displace Kurds in oil-rich areas like Kirkuk—and brutal ethnic-cleansing policies that saw hundreds of thousands of Kurds murdered.

There are also political and economic rewards for whoever controls the city: Kirkuk sits on top of 15 to 20 percent of Iraq’s oil reserves, or a minimum of 112 billion barrels. The revenue from this oil would go a long way to facilitate Kurdish autonomy.

However, Turkey interprets the prospect of Kurdish possession of Kirkuk as one more step towards an independent Kurdistan.

Escalating tensions between the Turkish military and terrorist groups in Kurdistan have already seen Turkish troops deployed along the Iraqi border.

If this were to devolve into a military conflict, it could prove disastrous for the Iraq War and incite violence among Kurds in bordering nations.

Headline Link: Barzani vows to keep Kirkuk

Background: Who are the Kurds and what do they want?

Historical Context: Kurdish history through the Baathist regime

Key Players: Barzani and Talabani

Massoud Barzani
Jalal Talabani

Reference Material: The geography of Kurdistan

Related Topics: Turkey, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Iraq, and Kurdish gangs in the U.S.

Kurds in the United States

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