An excellent article in the Washington Post (and well worth reading in full) provides an excellent survey of Kurdish attempts to demographically retake Kirkuk and the surrounding region in order to make them part of a future independent Kurdish state.
KIRKUK, Iraq -- Providing money, building materials and even schematic drawings, Kurdish political parties have repatriated thousands of Kurds into this tense northern oil city and its surrounding villages, operating outside the framework of Iraq's newly ratified constitution and sparking sporadic violence between Kurdish settlers and the Arabs who are a minority here, according to U.S. military officials and Iraqi political leaders.
The rapidly expanding settlements, composed of two-bedroom concrete houses whose dimensions are prescribed by the Kurdish parties, are effectively re-engineering the demography of northern Iraq, enabling the Kurds to add what ultimately may be hundreds of thousands of voters ahead of a planned 2007 referendum on the status of Kirkuk. The Kurds hope to make the city and its vast oil reserves part of an autonomous Kurdistan.
Saddam Hussein deported large numbers of Kurds from the Kurdish region he controlled and at the same time he shipped in Sunni and Shia Arabs. Since Saddam's fall many Arabs have been leaving (and some have been scared into leaving) while the Kurdish political parties have simultaneously been using cash from the regional government units to pay to resettle Kurds from central and southern Iraq into areas which they consider to be part of their Kurdish homeland. This is demographic war over how large the Kurdish autonomous region will be and whether the Kurds will eventually manage to secede entirely from Iraq.
The Kurds probably need to add perhaps two hundred thousand Kurds to swing Kirkuk firmly into the Kurdish sphere. But to the extent that they manage to drive out Arabs they can reduce the amount of Kurds they need to add.
Kirkuk's precise demographic makeup is a source of dispute, but Kurds are believed to represent 35 to 40 percent of the population. The remainder is composed primarily of Arabs, ethnic Turkmens and a small percentage of Assyrian Christians.
The Kurds, saying they have a historical claim, hope to anchor Kirkuk to Kurdistan, their semiautonomous region. Kirkuk holds strategic as well as symbolic value: The ocean of oil beneath its surface could be used to drive the economy of an independent Kurdistan, the ultimate goal for many Kurds.
If the non-Kurdish politicians have their numbers right then the outcome of Kirkuk's referendum is already been determined.
Arab and Turkmen politicians said as many as 350,000 Kurds have been relocated into the Kirkuk region since Hussein's fall.
Once US troops leave Iraq willl the Kurds formally secede or just pretend to be part of Iraq while de facto seceding? In either event, will the Arabs wage civil war to keep the Kurds in Iraq? Or will the Sunni and Shia Arabs be too busy fighting each other to bother with the Kurds? How is this going to go down?
The problem with formal secession is that it increases the odds that the Turks will intervene. Turkey does not want an independent Kurdistan because the existence of a Kurdish state might embolden the Turkish Kurds to renew their struggle to secede from Turkey.
By themselves I do not see the Arabs in Iraq putting together a military force effective enough to put the Kurds under the thumbs of the Arabs. But might a future Iraqi government ally with Turkey to jointly invade the Kurdish region? Or will the Turks restrain their desire to invade a Kurdish state because such an invasion would almost certainly torpedo their efforts to join the European Union?
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2005 October 30 10:28 AM Mideast Iraq Ethnic Cleansing|