Iraqi Kurdistan at the boiling point
I’ve been doing some research on Iraqi Kurdistan, especially ever since the rise in tension and bombings there, since I believe that the region’s relative stability is likely coming to an end. Constitutionally, there’s a drop-dead date of 31 December 2007 for referendums on whether various communities touching on the current boundaries of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) wish to be a part of it.
The hot spot is Kirkuk. Kirkuk holds about 12% of Iraq’s estimated oil reserves, is ethnically mixed between Kurds, Turkomen, Arabs – both Sunni and Shia – , and Chaldean-Assyrians. The KRG is playing a game of chicken over Kirkuk which it must initially have felt confident in winning, but things don’t look so good now.
A little over two months are left until the referendum must be held (under Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution), and not even the procedural basics have been established or hinted at yet. What are the boundaries of electoral districts? Who will have the right to vote? What question will be asked in the referendum? What will be the wording of the question? When will the referendum be held? The big question is, will there even be a referendum this year or at any point in the foreseeable future?
Most everyone but the Kurds are opposed to holding a referendum this year, or at all. I’ll write more on this later, but a great depth of knowledge on the issue is shared by the International Crisis Group. I wanted to learn more about the KRG’s formal and informal security apparatus (police, military, peshmerga, etc.), the state of their military hardware, where they purchase their arms, etc. to provide more context in my attempt to better understand the Kurdish moves toward independence that have really taken root since the 1920s.
In my attempt to learn more about the KRG’s strategic capacity, I came across Joost Hiltermann, who is the deputy program director for the International Crisis Group in the Middle East and North Africa. He was kind enough to suggest I read his Group’s two reports on the KRG/Kirkuk issue for more background.
You will need to sign up (free) to read the full report. I suggest doing so – it’s worth the minute to have full access to these reports, each over 30 pages in length.