'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Monday, January 05, 2004

A Visit from Joenac

ED McMAHON: Heaven has no brighter star than our next
stellar guest, that omnipotent master of the east and former manicurist to Howard Hughes, Joenac the Magnificent...

JOENAC: I must have absolute silence... Answer: The national debt ...some target of a terrorist attack on American soil somewhere, we promise (be very afraid and vote Republican) ... the city of Kirkuk. Question: What's going to explode in 2004? ... Thank you, everybody--I'll be here all week!

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American Leftist predicts we will see a great deal of strife and bloodshed this year in Kirkuk, Iraq.

Kirkuk is a powder keg. It's the center of Iraq's oil-rich northern provinces and is, therefore, extremely politically important. It's also the city that would be the capital of independent Kurdistan if an independent Kurdistan existed. These two bits of trivia do not bode well for its long term stability in the veritable anarchy of US occupied Iraq. Because of its strategic importance and its predominantly Kurdish character, Kirkuk was the epicenter of Saddam Hussein's vicious "Arabization" campaign, in which tens of thousands of people were forcibly driven from their homes.

Ethnic strife errupted in Kirkuk the moment the city was taken by the US last April. Crimes were committed by all ethnicities as the chaos of open war descended but the primary narrative of this episode of the city's violent history was the revenge of the Kurds, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan forced members of the al-Shummar tribe out of the region; the al-Shummar Arabs had settled around Kirkuk as a result of Hussein's ethnic cleansing campaign. The US did nothing to stop this violence, and in fact the PUK claimed the us had sanctioned its actions

This policy, the PUK official said, “has been approved by U.S. and coalition forces.”[*]

After April, news from Kirkuk died down -- I don't know if this was the result of relative peace, or simply lack of coverage by a fickle international news media, but in recent days Kirkuk has returned to the headlines: ("Three shot dead as anti-Kurd demo in Kirkuk turns violent", AFP, 12/31/03)

Three people were killed and dozens more wounded when Kurdish gunmen opened fire on a demonstration by Arabs and Turkmen in this northern Iraqi city, police and hospital officials said.

About 2,000 Turkmen and Sunni Arabs were protesting against a push by the city's Kurdish majority to incorporate the oil-rich center into an autonomous Kurdish province when violent clashes erupted.

Police said Kurdish fighters known as peshmergas opened fire on the demonstrators, who appeared to have come from outlying towns around Kirkuk to join the rally near a police academy on the southern edge of the city.

"Kirkuk, Kirkuk is an Iraqi city. No to federalism," the protesters chanted. "We want the Kurds to leave Kirkuk."

This incident has lead predictably to Arab and Turkmen attacks on Kurds: (from "Iraq: Tension runs high in Kirkuk", Turks.us, 1/5/04)

On Friday, Kirkuk Police Chief Gen. Turhan Youssef said one Kurd was killed and one wounded by Arabs who shot them as they were walking in an Arab neighborhood on Thursday night.

Jalal Jawher, the local head of the PUK, said armed Arabs were roaming the city and hunting down Kurds. After the gunmen killed one Kurd and wounded another, there was a shootout with police, who killed two of the attackers and wounded several, Jawher said. "Some armed Arabs tried to attack Kurds last night. ... Then the police clashed with the armed Arabs and killed two and wounded several," he said.

Predictions are always wrong, but it seems unlikely to me that this situation is going to fix itself, and Iraq’s bewildered conqueror is both incapable and unwilling to mediate a resolution. The India-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir and, of course, the Israel-Palestine conflict fester year after year -- this one will too. But in this case, the tensions in Kirkuk will be exacerbated by the devastation and general disorder that the United States has leveled on Iraq. There are well-armed factions on both sides of this dispute. The players involved have little to lose. We might see a civil war.

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