At least two people died and 10 were wounded today in Kirkuk when Arabs and Turkmen protested Kurdish efforts to control the oil-rich city.
Kurds on Iraq’s U.S.-appointed Governing Council are proposing that a future, federal Iraqi government grant broad autonomy to the northern zone, with Kirkuk as its capital, and a say over other areas with large Kurdish populations.
That plan is bitterly opposed by Turkmens and Arabs in Kirkuk, some 20,000 of whom took to the streets Wednesday, chanting “No to federalism! Kirkuk is Iraqi!.”
This is the aftereffects of Saddam Hussein’s efforts to “Arabize” the Kirkuk region. The city became a powderkeg of ethnic tensions when the “Kurds took Kirkuk”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/000354.php in April and almost immediately began “Kurdishizing” the area by driving out Arab families that had been settled there. In August, “three Turkmen were killed”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/000445.php#000445 in ethnic violence in Kirkuk. (If you want to see some of what the Kurds are looking for, I wrote about the proposed constitutions “here”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/000046.php#000046.)
I’m working on an essay about the political maneuverings among the Kurds, the Iraqi Governing Council and even Turkey, so I’m not going to say much more than this. But, as during the war, some of the most interesting — and far-reaching — events are bubbling in the north while most of the obvious bang-bang action is around Baghdad. While the southern events are important — people are dying, for God’s sake — the Kurds could be the match that lights a larger fire.