Massoud Barzani says Iraqi Kurdistan and
Kirkuk will be secure after US leaves
Barzani says disputed Kirkuk will be protected
October 27, 2011
— The president of semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan,
Massoud Barzani, said on Wednesday his region's
security would not be affected by the U.S. troop
withdrawal but expressed concern for the rest of
Barzani's comments were the first formal reaction
from Kurdish authorities after President Barack
Obama said on Friday that U.S. troops would
by Dec. 31 according to the terms of a 2008
bilateral security pact.
Kurds have long favoured the continued presence of
U.S. troops past the year-end deadline, warning of
potential trouble in disputed areas claimed by
Iraqi Kurdistan region President Massoud Barzani
greets officials and residents before a meeting in
Kirkuk, October 26, 2011. Photo: Reuters
both Kurds and Iraq's central government.
"Some people believe that the situation will get
worse after the Americans' withdrawal by the end of
this year," Barzani said during a visit the disputed
city of Kirkuk.
"The Americans' presence or non-presence will not
make a difference for the Kurdistan region," he
Kirkuk and other disputed northern areas are
considered potential flashpoints for conflict after
American troops leave, nearly nine years after the
2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.
In Kirkuk, a volatile mix of Kurds, Arabs and
Turkmen lives on top of some of the world's largest
oil reserves. It is protected in part by joint
patrols of Kurdish and Iraqi security forces under
an experimental program set up by the U.S. military.
Long considered a potential time bomb, the city
officially falls under the protection of the central
government in Baghdad.
But Barzani, speaking to Kirkuk's governor and local
officials, vowed the city would be properly secured
after U.S. troops leave.
"We will not allow for terrorists to believe that
Kirkuk has become an open field for conducting their
terrorist operations," he said.
Iraqi Kurdistan has enjoyed virtual independence
under Western protection since the end of the first
Gulf War in 1991, and it is relatively stable
compared to the rest of Iraq,www.ekurd.net
which fell into sectarian warfare and a raging
insurgency following the invasion.
But Barzani expressed concern about security in the
rest of Iraq, plagued by daily bombings and other
attacks by a still-lethal Sunni insurgency and
"As far as we know, our sky is exposed, our sea and
land borders are not fully protected, so the
security situation should be studied profoundly to
prevent any security breach," he said.
Violence has fallen sharply since the sectarian
slaughter of 2006-2007. U.S. and Iraqi officials say
Iraqi security forces can contain internal threats
but need trainers to help build up air defence,
maritime capabilities, intelligence gathering and
conventional warfare tactics.
The United States currently has about 39,000 troops
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Saturday Iraq
would continue talks with Washington on how U.S.
trainers can work with Iraqi forces after a complete
withdrawal of American troops at the end of the
The oil-rich province of Kirkuk is one of the most disputed areas by the
regional government and the Iraqi government in Baghdad.
The Kurds are seeking to integrate the province into the semi-autonomous
Kurdistan Region clamming it to be historically a Kurdish city, it lies just
south border of the Kurdistan autonomous region, the population is a mix of
majority Kurds and minority of Arabs, Christians and Turkmen, lies 250 km
northeast of Baghdad.
Kurds have a strong cultural and emotional
attachment to Kirkuk, which they call "the Kurdish
Jerusalem." Kurds see it as the rightful and
perfect capital of an autonomous Kurdistan state.
Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution is related to
the normalization of the situation in Kirkuk city
and other disputed areas through having back its
Kurdish inhabitants and repatriating the Arabs
relocated in the city during the former regime’s
time to their original provinces in central and
The article also calls for conducting a census to be
followed by a referendum to let the inhabitants
decide whether they would like Kirkuk to be annexed
to the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region or having
it as an independent province.
The former regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein
had forced over 250,000 Kurdish residents to give up
their homes to Arabs in the 1970s, to "Arabize" the
city and the region's oil industry.
The last ethnic-breakdown census in Iraq was
conducted in 1957, well before Saddam began his
program to move Arabs to Kirkuk. That count showed
178,000 Kurds, 48,000 Turkomen, 43,000 Arabs and
10,000 Assyrian-Chaldean Christians living in the
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