Kurdish Peshmerga forces will stay near
Kirkuk city: Minister
Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — A Kurdish official says
thousands of Kurd forces will remain in new
positions around the oil-rich Iraqi city of Kirkuk.
The fighters' presence could ratchet up tensions
between the central government and the Kurds'
self-ruled northern Kurdistan region.
Sheikh Jaafar Mustafa, the Minister of Peshmerga
(Kurdish forces) told The Associated Press on
Wednesday that the fighters won't leave until the
The Kurdish government sent thousands of peshmerga
into positions around Kirkuk on Feb. 24 fearing
demonstrations planned for the next day could turn
violent. The Kurdish side says it must protect
Kirkuk from al-Qaida, Arab
groups and supporters of Saddam Hussein's former
The Kurds are seeking to integrate the province into
the semi-autonomous Kurdistan
Sheikh Jaafar Mustafa, The Minister of Peshmerga
(Kurdish forces in Kurdistan region, Iraq)
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
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.
"Our forces will leave when the troubles and tension
end in Kirkuk and the city returns to its normal
situation," said Jafaar Mustafa, the minister in
charge of the Kurdish "peshmerga" fighting force. He
did not give an exact date and said the Kurds were
coordinating the fighters' presence with the Iraqi
army in the area.
The Kurds have long had forces north of the city
working with U.S. and Iraqi troops in a series of
combined checkpoints created at the behest of
American forces as a way to foster cooperation and
trust between Kurdish and Arab forces. But the
additional forces sent in - and their move south of
the city- increased their presence considerably.
"Kurds are now trying to see if they can encircle
Kirkuk with a ring of Kurdish forces, which is
something they've never had before," sadi Michael
Knights from the Washington Institute for Near East
The Kurdish side says it needs to protect the city
from al-Qaida, Arab groups and supporters of Saddam
Hussein's former regime and was acting on
intelligence that those groups were planning to take
over the city during protests.
"We are not strangers to Kirkuk. We are part of the
defense mechanism to protect Kirkuk," said Maj. Gen.
Shirko Fateh, the commander of the recently deployed
Fateh said his forces now control all the five roads
leading to Kirkuk from southern cities such as
Hawija and Tikrit.
Fateh said the move had been coordinated with the
central Iraqi government and U.S. forces, but a
close ally of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said
the premier had asked the Kurdish forces to pull
back. U.S. military officials did not have an
Hassan al-Sineed, the head of Parliament's security
and defense committee, said al-Maliki had asked
Kurdish President Massoud Barzani to pull the forces
back because there is no more need for them in. He
said the forces were supposed to withdraw soon but
gave no date.
Al-Maliki is caught between standing tough on an
issue that is considered core to his Arab
constituency and not upsetting the Kurds, who are
one of his key allies in his newly-formed
The peshmerga's arrival in the city 180 miles (290
kilometers) north of Baghdad have raised fears with
Arab and Turkoman residents afraid that the Kurdish
forces now positioned around the city will never
leave and are instead trying to push for full
Kurdish control of the city.
"The safety of Kirkuk people should be the
responsibility of the central government only," said
an Arab politician in the city, Ahmed al-Obeidi.
"What we need here is useful solutions,www.ekurd.netnot
more troops sent by politicians who want to change
the fate of the city."
He also suggested that the decision to deploy the
troops was a way to deflect attention from ongoing
protests in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah.
Thousands of protesters have been taking to the
streets of the city, demanding political and
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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