The Kurdistan Regional Government is under attack

  • - By Dr Mohammed M.A. Ahmed
  • 09/02/2008 00:00:00

By the end of 2007, it was becoming clear that the Kurdish demands for greater autonomy, control over regional resources, and the normalization of the status of Arabized Kurdish territories were on a collision course with the U.S. future agenda for Iraq. U.S. was instrumental in sabotaging implementation of article 140 in 2007 and force its postponement to the first half of 2008 in an effort to accord Iraqi Arab political factions and Turkmans enough time to erode its legal base and help the U.S.-sponsored Sunni Arabs militias consolidate their hold on Arabized Kurdish territories. During 2007, the U.S. recruited some 7,000 Sunni Arab al-Sahwa militias from Kirkuk’s al-Obaid and al-Jubour tribes, former Saddam Hussein allies and bitter enemies of the Kurds, under the pretext of fighting al-Qaida in Iraq. [1] Members of these tribes played a major role in the ethnic cleansing and Arabization of Kurdish territories during 1980s and 1990s. Mohammed Mala Qadir of the Kurdistan Democratic Party said that the Kurdish region has no security problems and that the Kurdistan Regional Government opposes the establishment of such militia organizations, not only in areas it administers but also in Arabized Kurdish territories. [2] The presence of al-Sahwa Sunni Arab militia forces in Arabized Kurdish territories is a new threat to the implementation of Article 140 in a peaceful manner.

By allowing Turkey to launch persistent air raids into Iraqi Kurdistan and plant Sunni Arab al-Sahwa militias in their backyard, the U.S. was undermining the credibility of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the eyes of the U.S. Middle Eastern clienteles, especially Turkey, Iraqi Arab majority, and regional Arab states.

It appears that this is part of the new U.S. strategy to dish out favors to its Middle Eastern clienteles, especially Sunni Arabs and Turkey. The Turkish Minister of Energy, Hilmi Guler, who accompanied the Turkish President, Abdullah Gul, to Washington on January 8, 2008, concluded an agreement with the U.S. Secretary of Energy, Samuel W. Bodman, for joint oil and gas exploration and transport to Turkey from Iraq’s northern oil fields in Kirkuk. Such an agreement emboldened Iraqi Arab politicians, including Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, to turn their backs on the Iraqi constitution and stand steadfastly against KRG oil exploration contracts with foreign oil companies. The mutual interests of U.S., Turkey and and al-Maliki’s government, supported by Iraqi Arab political factions, appear to be on a collision course with the interests of the Kurds. After five years of selfless cooperation with U.S. officials on the political front and on the battlefield, the Kurds feel that they are being undermined. The surprise visit of the U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, on December 18, 2008, to Kirkuk, while Turkey’s warplanes were raiding Iraqi Kurdistan, was an apparent effort to abort implementation of Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution. Rice had come to congratulate the U.S.-supported militia leaders, the U.S. reconstruction team and the U.N. representative for forging power sharing between the Kurds and Arabs.

The Kurds were fearful that the creation of Sunni Arab militia in Arabized Kurdish territories would threaten implementation of Article 140. Many Arab political factions in the Iraqi parliament were blocking the implementation of not only Article 140 but also the 17 percent share of the KRG from Iraq’s oil revenue. [3] Although this percentile was enshrined in the new Iraqi constitution during Iyad Allawi’s government in 2004, Arab political factions in the parliament are now trying to reduce it to 13 percent, claiming that the Kurdish population is 13 and not 17 percent of Iraq’s population. [4] The 13 percent rate is based on the 1987 Iraqi population census after Saddam Hussein’s government had ethnically cleansed some Kurdish territories of their original population and replaced them with Arab settlers and changed the administrative boundaries of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The purpose of the 1987 census might have been to establish a new benchmark for Iraq’s ethnic population distribution, especially after changing the demographic and the administrative features of the Kurdish region in an effort to squeeze the Kurdish population to the downsized provinces of Sulaimaniya, Arbil and Duhok, and excluding Arabized Kurdish territories. Although Saddam Hussein pushed some 800,000 Kurds into areas currently controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government, many of these people have since the 2003 war returned to their original provinces, but live in ramshackle shelters, awaiting implementation of Article 140. Instead of apologizing for Saddam Hussein’s crimes against the Kurds, Arab political factions in the Iraqi parliament seem to be taking pleasure in the pain endured by the Kurds and are encouraging Arab settlers to hold on to Kurdish homes and farmlands they occupy. In the absence of a decisive and creative action by the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Kurds might encounter more difficult days ahead.


[1] “American Arm Arab Tribes In Kirkuk To Undermine Article 140,” Kurdish Media,, January 12, 2008.

[2] “Al-Qiyada al-Kurdistaniya Tarfudh al-Simah Bi Tashkil Majalis al-Sahwa Fi al-Manatiq al-Mashmoula Bi al-Madda 140,” ATTAAKHI,, January 13, 2008.

[3] “Political Aims Behind Delay In Approving 2008 Budget-MP,” VOI,, February 7, 2008.

[4] “Political Aims Behind Delay In Approving 2008 Budget-MP,” VOI,, February 7, 2008.

  • - By Dr Mohammed M.A. Ahmed
  • 09/02/2008 00:00:00