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>Amnesty International Report On Human Rights Abuses In Kurdistan

>In April 2009 Amnesty International released a report on the human rights situation in Kurdistan called “Hope and Fear, Human rights in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.” Kurdistan consists of Iraq’s three most northern provinces, Dohuk, Irbil, and Sulaymaniya. Under the 2005 Iraqi constitution it is an autonomous region. It has had far more stability than the rest of Iraq, which has allowed its economy and government to grow. Amnesty still found major rights violations however such as beatings, torture, warrant less arrests, detention without access to lawyers, disappearances, etc. Much of this is due to the activities of the Asayish security forces and the two intelligence agencies run by the governing parties. There are also many honor killings against women, and government intimidation and limits on the press. Amnesty believes that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) needs to work on all aspects of ensuring freedom and rights for suspected terrorists, dissidents, women, and reporters, as well as fostering rule of law.

Kurdistan gained its de facto autonomy after the 1991 Gulf War. The two main Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Massoud Barzani, the KRG President, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) led by the President of Iraq Jalal Talabani, control the region. In 1992 they held elections for the 105-member Kurdish parliament. The KDP and PUK won 50 seats each, with the other five going to Assyrian Christian parties.

The PUK and KDP agreed to joint rule and power sharing until disagreements led to fighting that lasted from 1994 to 1997. During that period Barzani of the KDP cut a deal with Saddam Hussein to send in the Iraqi Army to crush his rival Talabani and the PUK, which they did. The two sides didn’t come to a peace agreement until 1998. Since then the two parties have run their own security and intelligence agencies. Each party has its own peshmerga militia, Asayish security force, and intelligence agency. The KDP has the Parastin run by Masrour Barzani, the son of Massoud, while the PUK has the Dezgay Zanyari headed by Pavel Talabani, the son of Jalal.

After the U.S. invasion, Jalal Talabani was made President of Iraq, and the new 2005 Iraqi Constitution recognized Kurdistan as an autonomous region, giving the KRG formal authority and the ability to pass its own laws. In the December 2005 elections, the PUK and KDP’s Kurdish Alliance won 53 seats in the 275-member Iraqi parliament, and became part of the ruling coalition behind the subsequent prime ministers. In January 2006 the KDP and PUK signed the Kurdish Regional Government Unification Agreement that merged the two separate administrations. That was true for all the ministries and bodies except for Finance, the peshmerga, Asayish, and intelligence agencies. In May 2006 a new Kurdish government was formed with Massoud Barzani the President of the KRG and his nephew Nechirvan Barzani the Prime Minister. There are also five smaller parties that hold seats in parliament. Despite these successes, many Kurds interviewed by Amnesty and others have complained about corruption, nepotism, and the lack of transparency in the KRG. Many claim that Barzani and Talabani can do what they want without regards to the Kurdish parliament or laws. The Kurds have also taken control of many northern regions of Iraq that they claim are historically Kurdish such as Kirkuk, and administer them even though they are formally under the control of the central government based in Baghdad. There are also Kurdish and Islamist groups, both violent and peaceful that disagree with the KRG. These political disputes are at the heart of the abuses that Amnesty recorded.

The Asayish were formed in 1992 and started operating in 1993. The Kurdish Interior Ministry originally controlled the organization. After the fighting between the KDP and PUK in the mid-1990s each party formed their own Asayish. In 2004 they were made independent of all ministries, with their own budgets. They report directly to the heads of each party. Each town and city in Kurdistan has an Asayish office that also operates its own jail. The headquarters are in Irbil for the KDP, and Sulaymaniya for the PUK. The PUK Asayish is headed by Seif al-Din Ali Ahmed, and the KDP branch is run by Ismat Arguishi. Both agencies have been charged with human rights abuses, including torture. Neither is apparently bound by international, Iraqi or Kurdish law. The Kurdish government has not investigated these charges, and members of the Kurdish parliament say that they can’t make the Asayish accountable either.

Similar allegations have been made about the KDP and PUK intelligence agencies the Parastin and Dezgay Zanyari respectively. They have been charged with arbitrary arrests, running secret prisons, abuse, and torture. The intelligence forces have also gone after critics of the political parties as well as suspected terrorists.

The Asayish and intelligence forces hold hundreds, perhaps thousands of prisoners. An Amnesty report in August 2008 raised concerns about these detainees, and the KRG responded by releasing more than 3,000. Many were required to make weekly check ins with the Asayish on their activities. The main targets of these arrests have been the terrorist group Ansar al-Islam, and legal political parties like the Kurdistan Islamic Movement and the Islamic Group. Critics of the government and journalists have also been held. These arrests are made without warrants. There are also occurrences of disappearances, when the security or intelligence forces take away a suspect without telling anyone about their activities or the person’s whereabouts afterwards. This practice started in the 1990s when the KDP and PUK were fighting each other. The suspects are then taken to prisons, jails, and at times private houses, some of which are secret, for interrogation. Some have very bad conditions. One jail was closed down in mid-2007 after the Minister of Human Rights visited. During this period the detainees are often denied lawyers and access to their families. Iraqi law provides these legal rights to all that are arrested, but the Kurdish forces are not following them. There are reports of detainees being tortured as well, ranging from beatings to electric shock, to suspension by their wrists. Some have died during this process. Beatings are the most common since the Iraqi justice system relies upon confessions for prosecutions. Detentions can last anywhere from days to months to years. The Kurdish Human Rights Ministry considers all of these activities illegal, but has not power to stop them from happening.

Kurdistan’s court system also has problems. Not all suspects picked up by the Asayish and intelligence units are taken to regular courts. Some are secret. There are also stories of trials that only last for one hour, the use of forced confessions, the denial of lawyers even during trial, etc. Some Kurdish lawyers told Amnesty that they were afraid to protest these practices out of fear that they too would be arrested. One judge even wrote an article criticizing the Asayish and received a threatening call afterwards by a top Asayish official. Many don’t believe the Kurdish judiciary is independent. The Kurdish Human Rights Ministry is not happy with the system either and consider it a work in progress.

Women in Kurdistan have made great strides, but traditional practices such as honor killings are a major concern of Amnesty. The KRG has passed laws, setup shelters, and created non-government organizations to deal with women’s rights and issues. Parliament has taken up the issue lately as well. The government and local police all monitor violence against women now. As a result, Kurdistan has far more protections for women then the rest of Iraq. The main problem Kurdish women face today is honor killings. The government counted 102 of them from July 2007 to June 2008. 262 other women were also severely injured or committed suicide during that same time. Amnesty believes that many of these cases were attempts to cover up murders. Despite all the laws and groups, Kurdish women’s lives are extremely limited. They have arranged marriages, limited educations, and very few are active in the workforce. Many attacks against women are not reported, and some police and courts are unwilling to deal with the issue as well. Some women’s organizations have also been threatened for their work.

Due to the relative security of Kurdistan, the region’s media has also flourished. There are many news outlets, and the number has increased. Many are run by the political parties, but there are also more independents as well. Most avoid criticizing the government or security forces however out of fear. Those that do are often threatened or arrested by the Asayish or intelligence forces. They have even gone after writers in Kirkuk, even though it is not part of Kurdistan. One reporter died under suspicious circumstances in 2008 while being held. The government has also sued several newspapers claiming defamation. President Talabani for example, sued the Hawlati newspaper for publishing a translation of an American article that was critical of the KRG. The authorities claim that many of these papers are not professional. As a result, the government has tried to regulate the press in Kurdistan. In September 2008 a new press law was passed, which was aimed at giving them more freedom by banning detention for defamation, and reducing fines, but the security forces have not followed it.

Amnesty’s paper shows that the KRG has two parallel systems operating. One is the Kurdish parliament and regular government bodies that follow the law. The other is a secret one run by the PUK and the KDP, enforced by their security and intelligence agencies that operates by its own rules. Amnesty’s findings about abuses in Kurdistan follows closely a paper by Human Rights Watch from December 2008 entitled “The Quality of Justice, Failings of Iraq’s Central Criminal Court.” Human Rights Watch reported that there were abuses throughout the criminal justice system in Iraq, including Kurdistan. Because the courts rely upon confessions rather than evidence to find guilt, police routinely beat suspects to obtain one. Torture and overcrowding in jails and prison were also common. The Iraqi justice system also lacked due process as suspects were held for months and years without ever going to court, many had very limited access to lawyers, and forced confessions were often accepted by judges. Amnesty’s investigation of Kurdistan shows that it is no different from the rest of Iraq in this regard.


Amnesty International, “Hope and Fear, Human rights in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq,” April 2009

Human Rights Watch, “The Quality of Justice, Failings of Iraq’s Central Criminal Court, December 2008

Majid, Kamal, “An Assessment of the conditions in the Kurdish part of Iraq,” Brussels, 7/23/08

>Old And New Alliances Argue Over Control Of Diyala Provincial Council

>On April 11, 2009 the new provincial council in Diyala named Abdulnasir al-Muntasirbillah governor. He received 17 out of 29 votes. Taleb Mohammed Hassan of the Kurdistan Alliance was made head of the council. Four losing lists, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law, parliamentarian Saleh al-Mutlaq’s Iraqi National Dialogue Front, former Prime Minister Ilyad Alawi’s Iraqi National List, and former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s Reform Movement boycotted their election. They are also going to court to contest the elections. These four diverse groups that include Sunnis and Shiites, Iraqi exiles and former Baathists represent the possible face of a new alliance for the upcoming parliamentary elections planned for the end of the year. In Diyala they are taking on a coalition of Iraqi Accordance Front, the Kurds, and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, which have been working together since 2007. This struggle represents a clash of old and new alliances for not only control of Diyala, but possibly for the country.

When the results of the January 2009 provincial elections were announced the Iraqi Accordance Front led by Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi’s Iraqi Islamic Party came out the winners. They received 9 of 29 seats on Diyala’s provincial council followed by Mutlaq’s Iraqi National Project List with six, the Kurdish Alliance with six, Allawi’s Iraqi National List with three, Maliki’s State of Law with two, the Supreme Council with two, and Jaafari’s National Reform Party with one.

Results of January 2009 Provincial Elections
Diyala – 29 seats total
1. Iraqi Accordance Front – Hashemi: 9
2. Iraqi National Project – al-Mutlaq: 6
2. Kurdish Alliance: 6
4. Iraqi National List – Allawi: 3
5. State of Law – Maliki: 2
5. Diyala Coalition – SIIC: 2
7. National Reform Party – Jaafari: 1

This was a marked change from the 2005 elections when the Sunnis boycotted. Then a coalition of the Supreme Council and the Dawa party came in first with 20 of 41 seats, followed by the Iraqi Islamic Party with 14, and the Kurds with seven.

Results of January 2005 Provincial Elections
Diyala – 41 seats total
Coalition of Islamic and National Forces in Diyala (SIIC & Dawa): 20
Iraqi Islamic Party – Hashemi: 14
Kurdish Arabic Turkmen Democratic Coalition Diyala Governorate – Kurds: 7

The Sunni majority was able to assert themselves in the 2009 balloting in Diyala, although their votes were spread out over several parties. The Kurds, who reside in the northern section of the province, were able to largely hold onto their power on the council, while the Shiites came out the loseWeight Exercisers. Despite these changes however, the old alliance of the Accordance Front, Kurds, and SIIC were able to push through their candidate for governor. These three parties make up three-quarters of the governing alliance in parliament behind Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The Supreme Council and Kurds have a long-standing relationship, and when the Accordance Front rejoined the government in 2008 after a boycott, they became a triumvirate.

By February 2009 the Accordance Front and Kurdish Alliance had cut a deal to divide up the top posts in Diyala. That drew the ire of the losing parties. On March 1 for example, thousands of their followers protested the election results in two cities in the province. Some 10,000 people were reportedly out in the streets. They were organized by the Diyala Support Council, a group formed by Maliki’s government to garner tribal support and divide the Sunni Sons of Iraq in the province. The protestors called for new elections and for the State of Law List and others not to participate in the new council. Shiites also claimed that the Election Commission was controlled by Kurds and Sunnis, and denied them votes.

Perhaps coincidently, but perhaps not, on the first day that the new council was supposed to be seated on April 6, police sent by Baghdad tried to raid the council building. They had six arrest warrants accusing new members of the council with links to the insurgency, displacing people, and murder. No names were mentioned or which parties they were attached to. U.S. forces stopped the police however. This led to more protests.

The dispute in Diyala is a microcosm of new political divisions occurring in Iraq after the provincial elections. As reported before, Maliki is trying to forge a new ruling coalition. The Prime Minister was originally put into office as a compromise candidate between the Sadrists and Supreme Council. He was supported by the Iraqi United Alliance that included the Dawa, the SIIC, the Sadrists, the Fadhila Party, and Shiite independents, plus the Kurds and the Iraqi Accordance Front. Now Maliki is abandoning those parties for a new mix. In Diyala his State of Law List is working with Saleh Mutlaq’s Iraqi National Dialogue Front, Ilyad Allawi’s Iraqi National List, and Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s Iraqi Reform Movement, all of which are protesting the new council. Maliki has also talked with the Sadrists in other parts of the country. The reason for this change is because Maliki has a different vision for the country and different goals from his former supporters. The SIIC and Kurds support a weak central government, federalism, and autonomy on oil deals. The Prime Minister on the other hand, wants a strong government based in Baghdad with him at its head. He is wrapping his campaign in Arab nationalism as well, which challenges the Kurds’ desire to expand southward and annex various areas of northern Iraq. Maliki is beginning this push for new partners in the provincial councils, and is hoping that some winning combination will emerge before the parliamentary elections. This new struggle is playing itself out in various provinces now such as Diyala, and others. The major problem is that as it stands now, Maliki’s new partners do not have nearly enough to form a majority in Iraq’s 275-member parliament, so there will be plenty more maneuvering before everything is said and done.


Associated Press, “Iraqi provincial election results,” 2/19/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “4 blocs to contest the results of Diala council votes,” 4/12/09
- “KA, IAF agree to share leading posts in Diala,” 2/24/09
- “New Diala governor elected,” 4/11/09
- “Police prevent Diala council from holding first session,” 4/6/09
- “Thousands of protesters call to dissolve IHEC-Diala,” 3/1/09
- “Thousands stage demonstrations in Diala,” 4/8/09

International Crisis Group, “Iraq After The Surge II: The Need for a New Political Strategy,” 4/30/08

Knights, Michael and McCarthy, Eamon, “Provincial Politics in Iraq: Fragmentation or New Awakening?” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, April 2008

Rossmiller, Alex, “The Bush administration’s four-year history of erratic meddling in search of an Iraqi ‘savior.’” American Prospect, 4/11/07

Russo, Claire, “Countdown To Diyala’s Provincial Election: Maliki & The The IIP,” Institute for the Study of War, 1/30/09

Sabah, Zaid and Raghavan, Sudarsan, “Hundreds of Iraqi Shiites Protest Voting Results, Allege Fraud,” Washington Post, 3/2/09

Shadid, Anthony, “New Alliance In Iraq Cross Sectarian Lines,” Washington Post, 3/20/09

Visser, Rediar, “Iraq’s New Provincial Councils: A Mixed Picture North of Baghdad, Unexpected Complications in the Centre and the South,”, 4/13/09

>Center For Strategic And International Studies Briefing On Iraq

>In early April 2009 Anthony Cordesman, one of the top military analysts on Iraq, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, released the latest version of his briefing on the war, “The Changing Situation in Iraq: A Progress Report.” Cordesman comes from the camp of American think tank writers who believes that the U.S. needs to stay long-term in Iraq to ensure its stability. Under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) however, Iraq’s military presence will end in 2011. This comes at a time when Iraq is facing a plethora of new issues including elections, power sharing, and a financial crisis, along with continuing violence. There is no telling whether the Iraq government will be able to maneuver through these problems, which means that the U.S. will have a lot to work on while they still have substantial forces in the country.

Iraq is a different place from what it was just a few years ago. A recent public opinion poll by ABC, NHK, and BBC from February 2009 detailed here shows that most Iraqis are feeling positive about their future. When asked how things were going in their life 65% said they were good compared to 35% who said that it was bad. This was the highest positive response since the poll was started back in 2005. Then 71% said things were going well in Iraq. After that the numbers dropped to 39% in February and August 2007, before climbing back up to 54% in March 2008. When asked how the entire country was doing at the time 58% said it was doing well in February 2009 compared to 43% in March 2008, 22% in August 2007, 35% in February 2007, and 44% in 2005. At the same time military and security issues dropped from being the most important issue at 58% in August 2007 to 33% in March 2008 to 22% by February 2009. Economic issues now predominate at 67% in February 2009. These match similar results found by polls coducted by the State and Defense Departments. As attacks and deaths have decreased since their peak during the sectarian war of 2006-2007 Iraqis are feeling better about their lives and the future of the country, while hoping that the economy, services, and government improve.

That doesn’t mean that security is not still a concern. Cordesman believes that Iraq could see violence for the next 4-5 years. He warns that Al Qaeda in Iraq, the Sunni insurgency, and the Shiiite militias are down, but not out. In March 2009 Interior Minister Jawad Bolani warned that there were still Al Qaeda sleeper cells in the country, and the recent spate of bombings shows that militants are still active in the country. What has changed is the number and intensity of the fighting. Attacks are now down to 2004 levels. Most of those are concentrated in just four provinces, Baghdad, Diyala, Ninewa and Salahaddin, whereas before they were across the entire nation. The February 2009 poll found that Iraqis are experiencing one-third less violence than they did in August 2008. IEDs and suicide attacks still persist, but crime, corruption, and the lack of rule of law are becoming more important.

The political arena is where most of Iraq’s rivalries and struggles are now taking place. Cordesman argues that the January 2009 provincial elections were the beginning of a political transition in Iraq. The balloting was important because it showed Iraqis that their votes counted as almost all of the ruling parties were replaced. It also raised expectations that the incoming councils would be more accountable, perform better, and provide services. The problem is that almost all of the provincial councils will require a coalition to rule. Some of these will not be stable and may break into factions. New politicians also don’t automatically mean better governance.

Cordesman noticed several trends in the provincial balloting that are different than other commentaries on them. First Arab nationalism rather than Iraqi nationalism was a winning theme. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law list and new parties like al-Hadbaa in Ninewa ran on this platform championing a strong central government, but general opposition to the Kurds. As a result, they were the biggest loseWeight Exercisers. There were many reports that the election was a defeat for the religious parties and a move towards secularism, but Cordesman believes it was actually ones promising technocrats and better management that were successful. Maliki of course was the biggest winner, having rode into the voting with a 70% approval rating. Even his standing amongst Sunnis increased from 10% in February 2008 to 33% before the election. Maliki’s State of Law List won in Baghdad and across the south except for Karbala as a result. The Iraqi Islamic Party and and the Sadrists also did well despite some writing them off. The Sadrists will play an important role in coalitions in the south, while the Sunnis got greater representation after having boycotted the 2005 provincial vote.

The election also brought out the on-going struggle for control of the south and leadership of the Shiites. After the 2005 elections the Supreme Council was dominant. They suffered a crushing defeat after they claimed they would win Najaf, Babil, Qadisiyah, and Dhi Qar, and be the largest bloc in the rest of the south. They ran on a religious and federalist platform that was largely rejected for Maliki’s call for good governance and strong control.

More problematic is the increasing Arab-Kurdish divide. Only 44% of Iraqis say that relations between the two groups are good. In the provincial elections the Kurds lost control of Ninewa and Salahaddin. That will probably mean that there will be more tension there. This is already being seen in Ninewa where the Kurds are boycotting the al-Hadbaa headed council. The issue also threatens the unity of the Iraqi security forces. In the summer of 2008 for example, when Maliki sent the Iraqi Army into the Khanaqin district of Diyala a Kurdish battalion commander and 200 of his soldiers in Ninewa deserted and went to Irbil in Kurdistan in protest. A Kurdish brigade in Diyala also refused to take orders from the central government at that time. The fact that the insurgency is now largely based in the north in those exact same provinces is only making the matter worse. Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani has not helped the situation either as he has made monthly attacks on Baghdad and Maliki. The U.S. believes that this is the number one source of instability in the country, and could lead to new violence in the future.

The provincial elections were just the opening salvo of these two struggles. Cordesman thinks that they will continue up to and after the parliamentary elections. They are scheduled for December 2009, but it could take up to six months afterwards for a new government to be formed and take office. There is also the added issue of dissatisfaction with Maliki’s rise to power. Some think that he has too much strength. The Prime Minister has direct control over the special forces and counterterrorism units for example. These fears could be moderated by the necessity for coalitions to rule. Maliki will have to have a Sunni party in this alliance, and might also join with the Iraqi National List of former Prime Minister Ilyad Allawi. On the other hand, Maliki may reject compromising with his foes if he comes out victorious. None of these problems is really being address, but are rather being exploited by political parties for votes and support.

On top of all this Iraq is running into a budget crisis. This will affect all the other problems in the country. Cordesman argues that money was one of the main things that held Iraq together over the last couple years. Each year Iraq’s budget increased as oil prices rose. This money was distributed to the various ministries, each of which is controlled by a different political party, and used for patronage and to garner support. Now Iraq is expected to run a $24 billion deficit in the 2009-2010 fiscal year, and a $13 billion one in 2010-2011. Security will be affected as the Interior Ministry announced that it is having a hiring freeze, and is canceling its plan to hire 66,000 new police. This will also hold up crime prevention and the establishment of rule of law, which are increasingly becoming important to the Iraqi public. The rest of the armed forces will also not be able to buy new equipment and weapons. While the Iraqi forces are getting better at counterinsurgency operations, Cordesman believes that they are still 3-5 years away from being able to defend their own country from other nations. Some U.S. commanders are worried that the U.S. will leave Iraq before the Iraqi forces are capable. U.S. advisors will still remain with Iraqi units after the June 2009 deadline to be out of Iraq’s cities, and have until 2011 to conduct training operations. The Iraqis can also extend those dates if they want.

With better security and new elections Iraqis are also expecting better services. This too will be slowed down by the budget problems. The political divisions have slowed developing Iraq’s oil resources, and many Iraqis are opposed to foreign companies doing business in the country fearing exploitation. The government is also the largest employer in the country. The budget deficit will mean few new hires. Salaries and pensions that form the backbone of the operational budget take up 90% of spending, leaving only 10% for development and investment, known as the capital budget. The amount of money Iraq has been able to spend overall has increased each year since 2005, but capital budget expenditures remain anemic. In 2007 Iraqi spent 80% of its $29 billion operational budget, but only 28% of its $12 billion capital budget. That increased to 39% of the $24 billion capital budget in 2008. That year the core ministries that raise revenues and provide services only spent 23% of their $16 billion capital budget.

Foreign investment has also been slow due to laborious government regulations. The World Bank’s 2009 Ease of Doing Business Report for example, ranked Iraq 152 out of 181 countries in ease of investment. That was down six spots from 2008. The 2006 National Investment Law doesn’t have a means to implement it, the National Investment Commission doesn’t have a chair, and the provincial investment commissions are weak. Kurdistan is the only region of the country that has large-scale investment coming in at about $15 billion. The country overall still needs billions of dollars to reach its targets for oil, electricity, and water production. That’s not likely to come any time soon.

Cordesman finishes by saying that real success in Iraq requires political reconciliation. While he provides a checklist of the benchmarks set by the American Congress during the Surge on key legislation, he seems more concerned about the actual actions of Iraq’s political parties. There the struggle for power is intensifying with the elections. That could last for years. Not only are the Shiite parties competing with each other, but the Sunnis still lack strong leadership, and the Arab-Kurdish dispute is only growing in intensity. At the same time, with violence down, average Iraqis are thinking more positive about their current and future situation. According to the February 2009 public opinion poll 59% of Sunnis and Shiites say relations between them are good. That’s up from 48% in 2008. At the same time, only 33% of Sunnis say they feel safe in their neighborhoods compared to 67% of Shiites and 85% of Kurds. That reflects the fact that the Sunnis were the loseWeight Exercisers politically with the fall of Saddam Hussein, and were then defeated by the Shiites in the sectarian war. Economic issues are also coming to the fore at just the time that the country is running out of money with the collapse of oil prices. As stated before, Cordesman is one of many American think tankers that believes Americans need to stay for the long-term in Iraq until its problems are solved. In practice that means an open ended commitment, and Cordesman’s report is part of that argument as it outlines the myriad issues facing the country that are not going to be resolved anytime soon. Cordesman does now seems to have come to terms with the fact that American forces will be out by the end of 2011 with the Status of Forces Agreement. That means that while American military forces will eventually be out, U.S. diplomats will still be working there for years.


Abouzeid, Rania, “Arabs-Kurd Tensions Could Threaten Iraq’s Peace,” Time, 3/24/09

BBC, ABC, NHK, “Iraq Poll February 2009,” 3/16/09

Cordesman, Anthony, “The Changing Situation in Iraq: A Progress Report,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 4/1/09

Derhally, Massoud, “Iraq Freezes 66,000 New Police Hires, Minister Says,” Bloomberg, 3/22/09

Gamel, Kim, “Iraqi budget woes force security hiring freeze,” Associated Press, 3/20/09

Zelikow, Philip, “The new strategic situation in Iraq,” Foreign Policy Online, 2/9/09

>Arab-Kurdish Divide Over New Ninewa Provincial Council

>On April 12 the new Ninewa provincial council met and elected its leadership. The head of the Al-Hadbaa List Atheel al-Najafi was elected governor, followed by Jabr Faisal Abdullah al-Yawir as the first deputy governor, al-Adrabbo as the head of the council, and Wild-dar Zebary as the deputy head of council. The second deputy governor, Judge Hassan Mahmoud Ali, an independent Turkmen, was the only official named not from Al-Hadbaa. The List gained these positions after they came away with 19 of the 37 seats in the January 2009 provincial elections. The Kurdish Ninewa Brotherhood List finished second with 12 seats, followed by the Iraqi Islamic Party with three. The religious minority groups the Shabaks, Christians, and Yazidis received one seat each under a quota. The ascendancy of the Arab al-Hadbaa List however has only increased the divisions in the province.

As reported before, the al-Hadbaa party ran on an explicitly anti-Kurdish platform. While campaigning for example, they declared that Mosul was an Arab city, and said that the Kurds need to give up all plans of annexing any areas in Ninewa. After the election, List leader Najafi demanded that the Kurds get rid of all of their standing politicians and replace them with ones that would only work for Ninewa’s needs. He also wanted all the Kurdish peshmerga militiamen to leave the province.

In response the Kurdish Fraternal List is boycotting the new provincial council. The Kurds want Al-Hadbaa to share power, and say they won’t return until two of the top three posts in Ninewa are given to them. The mayor of Sinjar district in western Ninewa has also declared that he will not cooperate with the new Hadbaa run council. The mayor later said that he would prefer Sinjar be annexed by Kurdistan rather than work with the Hadbaa List. There were also two days of protests in the district against the council as well. Governor Najafi has rejected these calls, hoping that the Kurds will eventually accept the new status quo and rejoin the council.

American officials said that the 2009 January provincial elections were an important benchmark for progress in Iraq. Some analysts declared it a tidal change in Iraqi politics. With more Sunnis voting after they boycotted in 2005, Ninewa was held up as one example of this. The dispute over the provincial council however shows that the voting could actually make things worse in places, and that political bickering and infighting will continue. That has wide ranging affects across the province, including the security situation as Ninewa remains one of the most unstable areas in the country. In Mosul for example, the provincial capital, attacks and casualties have gone right back up to where they were after a short dip during January. Much of that violence is due to the Arab-Kurdish divide, which is still the major issue in Ninewa before and after the balloting.


Abouzeid, Rania, “Arabs-Kurd Tensions Could Threaten Iraq’s Peace,” Time, 3/24/09

Alsumaria, “Yazidis call to join Sinjar to Kurdistan,” 4/15/09

Associated Press, “Iraqi provincial election results,” 2/19/09

Aswat al-Iraq “Atheel Nejefi elected as Ninewa governor,” 4/12/09
- “Sinjar to boycott new local government in Ninewa,” 4/13/09

Cocks, Tim, “Vote sows seeds of greater calm in Iraq’s north,” Reuters, 2/2/09

Flintoff, Corey, “Shift In Power Heightens Tensions In Iraqi City,” All Things Considered, NPR, 2/27/09

Gamel, Kim, “Sunni party likely big winner in northern Iraq,” Associated Press, 2/1/09

Garcia-Navarro, Lourdes, “Iraq’s Election Campaign Especially Bitter In Mosul,” Morning Edition, NPR, 1/30/09

Kamal, Adel, “new ninawa governor: no possibility of Kurdish alliance,” Niqash, 2/24/09

Mohsen, Amer, “Iraq Papers Thu: Corruption and Reconstruction,”, 3/4/09

Reilly, Corinne and Abbas, Ali, “Kurdish-Arab tensions continue to grow in northern Iraq,” McClatchy Newspapers, 4/14/09

Sands, Phil, “Kurd-Arab battle for power unlikely to end,” The National, 1/30/09

Sly, Liz and Ahmed, Caesar, “Establishment of Iraq provincial councils drags,” Los Angeles Times, 4/15/09

Zelikow, Philip, “The new strategic situation in Iraq,” Foreign Policy Online, 2/9/09

>Kirkuk Remains In Political Limbo

>Every deadline set for Kirkuk in Tamim has come and gone with no resolution. The Kurds of the province want it either annexed by Kurdistan or given special status for a period of time to work out its future, while the resident Arabs and Turkmen think it should be under the control of the central government or have some sort of autonomy. The Christians there are caught in the middle. On March 31, 2009, a special committee was suppose to come up with a power sharing agreement amongst those major groups that would allow for provincial elections. That date has passed with nothing happening. That follows the failure to carry out a census and referendum called for by the Iraqi constitution at the end of 2007. That date was extended to June 2008, but that too expired with no action. The task of determining the future of Kirkuk is now up to the United Nations, which is in the process of coming up with a series of options. It the past is a prelude to the future, then the U.N.’s plans are likely to be frustrated as well.

The Provincial Election law postponed voting in Tamim until a special committee could come up with plans for how to conduct them there. The law said that a committee had to create a power sharing agreement between the Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, and Christians, before balloting could occur. The committee was to consist of two Kurds, two Turkmen, two Arabs, and one Christian. They were to finish their work by March 31, 2009. In early February 2009 a parliamentarian from the Kurdistan Islamic Union criticized the group saying that it would miss its March deadline because it had done nothing, which would jeopardizing the election in Tamim. He proved to be right. The end of March has come and gone, and there has been no word on the committee’s progress.

A major sticking point is that there are no up to date numbers on the population of Tamim. The Kurds want to use a 1957 census that says they are the largest group, while the Arabs insist on a 1987 census that favors them. The problem arises from Saddam Hussein’s Arabization policy that forced thousands of Kurds out of Kirkuk. Since the U.S. invasion thousands of Kurds have moved to the province, while many Arabs have either been forced out or been encouraged to leave with the promise of cash payments by the Kurds if they do so. According to the law, the fate of Tamim is now supposed to pass to the cabinet, but they are unlikely to make much progress either.

That leaves the issue to the United Nations. At the end of March several officials talked to the Associated Press about a draft U.N. plan that includes five possible options to deal with Kirkuk. One official said three of those would be rejected outright by one or the other of the major groups in area, leaving the last two, a special status for Tamim or making it an autonomous region as the only viable ones. If the province is given special status that would mean that it would be under the joint rule of both Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The final decisions on how to carry out the day-to-day governance of Tamim would be left to the provincial council. Tamim would be under this specification for three to ten years until the government and the U.N. could find a resolution. This plan is favored by the Kurds because it would mean their continued control of Tamim, as they are the majority on the provincial council. The other plan is to make the province autonomous. It would still rely upon Baghdad for funding, but could possibly collect revenues from the North Oil Corporation as well, which exports its petroleum through a Kirkuk-Turkish pipeline. The Arabs and Turkmen support this idea.

In the meantime tensions are building in the province. In July 2008 the newly formed 12th Iraqi Army Division was moved into Tamim. The commander of the unit General Abdul Amir Zaidi served in that area under Saddam from 1996-1998. The commander of the Kurdish peshmerga militia claims that General Zaidi operated against the Kurds during that period, although he denies it. The general said that his orders from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, are to remove all of the Kurdish peshmerga militiamen from the province. The peshmerga have been there since the U.S. invasion. This plan was postponed after an Iraqi Army unit almost got into a shoot out with Kurds in January 2009. The U.S. had to intervene to defuse the situation. As a result, the Kurds have called for 10,000 U.S. troops to stay in the province until its future is determined. Leading Kurdish officials such as the President of Kurdistan Massoud Barzani, and his son Masrour Barzani, have called for the implementation of Article 140 of the constitution that requires a census and then referendum on the status of Kirkuk.

The U.S. is fully aware of the potential danger in Tamim, but now has a set deadline to leave the country that complicates its role. A U.S. Army officer said in March 2009 that if there was a flare up around Kirkuk that threatened violence, the U.S. would send in troops to stop it. Despite the plan to drawdown forces in much of the country, the Americans have actually increased their presence around Kirkuk. At the beginning of the year, the U.S. Army battalion that was stationed there was replaced with a full brigade. In that same month then Vice President-elect Joe Biden traveled to Iraq and stopped in Kirkuk where he told the sides that they had to have reconciliation to resolve the future of the area. The Americans are supposed to be out of Iraq’s cities by the end of June 2009 however, and completely withdraw from the country by the end of 2011, so the Kurds especially are apprehensive about what lays ahead after they leave.

In March 2009 Kurdish President Barzani said that the problems between the Kurds and Baghdad will remain unresolved until the future of Kirkuk is determined. The Kurds lay claim to a large swath of northern Iraq, but Kirkuk is the prize. It has both symbolic importance as well as help rallies the population behind the ruling parties in Kurdistan. While the central government was weak, the Kurds moved to legally annex the area. They sent their forces into Tamim after the U.S. invasion, they took control of the local administration, they won in the provincial elections, and then added Article 140 to the Constitution to hold a referendum on the issue. In 2007 Prime Minister Maliki began asserting his authority as the American Surge and other factors began to decrease the violence. After dealing with the Sadrists and insurgents, he began confronting the Kurds. This began in places like the Khanaqin district of Diyala and Mosul in Ninewa, and eventually came to Tamim. The attempt by the 12th Iraqi Army Division to move the peshmerga out is part of Maliki’s plan to limit the Kurds to Kurdistan, and end their expansionist plans. President Barzani’s claim is probably correct then, Kirkuk will be a defining issue between Baghdad and Kurdistan. It will probably take some kind of bargain between those two to resolve it. Until then tensions will increase, elections will be postponed, and Tamim will remain in political limbo.


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