http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=8976641&fsrc=nwlbetter check out the map to see reason behind bluewarrior's support for congress taking us into the former war with IRAQ.
Iraq and the Kurds
The other Jerusalem
Apr 4th 2007 | KIRKUK AND BAGHDAD
From The Economist print edition
Will the Kurds get their way?
AS YOU drive through the city of Kirkuk, with its drab buildings, dusty and rubbish-strewn streets and general decrepitude, you wonder why it stirs such anguish at the heart of Iraq's national-unity government in Baghdad. One big answer is the huge, sprawling oilfields on the city's western fringe.
But for Kirkuk's Kurds and their brethren in the autonomous Kurdish region to the north, it is about far more than just oil. Kirkuk is a symbol, they say, of everything Kurdish: their people, their land, their history. They say they can be reconciled with their Arab compatriots, both Sunni and Shia, only if Saddam Hussein's “Arabisation” campaign—the settlement of tens of thousands of Arabs in Kirkuk during his three decades in power—is reversed.
Iraq's president, Jalal Talabani, a Kurd from Kirkuk, called the city “our Jerusalem”. But while the status of the real Jerusalem looks set to remain disputed for many years, most Kurds now think that Kirkuk's fate will be satisfactorily sealed this year. Most Arabs still disagree. But the tide may be flowing the Kurds' way.
Last week, Kurdish leaders threatened to quit the government in Baghdad, where they are allied to the main Shia block, unless the cabinet of Nuri al-Maliki stopped dragging its feet over Kirkuk. A deal was then struck: thousands of Arabs who had settled in Kirkuk would be compensated with land and money if they went back to their original homes, mainly in the south.
The justice minister, Hashem al-Shibli, said that those who left would be paid about $15,000 and given land in their former home towns. Mr Shibli, who has been chairing a committee looking into the issue, said that Kirkuk's authorities would soon begin giving out forms to Arab families to assess who was eligible for resettlement, which would be voluntary.
The minister then surprised everyone by resigning, citing differences with the government and his own political block, led by a former prime minister, Iyad Allawi, partly over Kirkuk. The controversial Article 140 of Iraq's new constitution provides for several things: the return of Arab “settlers” and a redrawing of the boundaries of Kirkuk province, surrounding the city; a census; and then, by November 15th this year, a referendum on whether Kirkuk should join the present Kurdistan federal region. Kurds calculate that, once enough Arabs have left, the vote will go their way. One Arab member of parliament says that 12,600 families, which means around 90,000 people, have already agreed to go.
The referendum's exact terms have yet to be drafted. Among other things, the Kurds want to adjust the borders of Kirkuk province to bring back four Kurdish-populated towns (Chamchamal, Kalar, Tuz Kermatu and Kifri) which Saddam had put into other provinces to shift Kirkuk's demographic balance against the Kurds. They also want the Kurdish region to include a string of mostly Kurdish towns, in a loop running from Sinjar, west of (mainly Arab) Mosul, through Makhmur, south-west of Arbil, to Mandali in the south-east near the Iranian border. The Kurds' geographic borders, they say, should roughly follow the line of the Hamrin mountains.
Many of Kirkuk's Arabs and Turkomen fiercely object to all such ideas. The Turkomen say they are Kirkuk's original rulers, while most Arabs say Kirkuk is Iraqi and should stay so. Sunni Arab nationalists elsewhere in Iraq, plus followers of the populist Shia cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, have denounced the plan to push Kirkuk's Arab families to move south. Few Arabs or Turkomen trust the city's Kurdish-dominated authorities to treat them fairly. Turkey's government, facing elections this year, rejects the Kurds' claims to Kirkuk and says it may have to intervene militarily if the city's Turkomen are threatened. The Americans say Kirkuk is an internal Iraqi issue and are urging the Turks to stay out.
So there are fears that tensions may yet boil over in a city where Kurds, Arabs, Turkomen and Christians edgily co-exist. This week a massive bomb hit a police station in a mainly Kurdish district, killing 15 people, including children at a nearby school. Such attacks, presumably by Sunni insurgents, may increase, in the hope that the Kurds delay the referendum. But as things stand, they are determined to hold it. aye wonder who wrote this article?