Kurds support dividing Iraq into three regions

The Kurds say that having Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions is the only way to solve Iraq’s crisis.

al-monitor Displaced families from Tikrit make their way to Kirkuk, June 16, 2014. Photo by REUTERS/ Ako Rasheed.

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mosul, kurds, kurdistan regional government, kirkuk, iraq

Jun 18, 2014

The collapse of the Iraqi army in Mosul and the spread of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) to cities seems to have strengthened the positions of those demanding independent Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish regions. The Kurds, who support this division, declared yesterday [June 17] they don’t intend to withdraw from Kirkuk and “the disputed areas.” The Kurds emphasized they will avoid a confrontation with ISIS “except for self-defense.”

Last night, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki sacked four senior army and security leaders for failing to defend Mosul and other locations.

In this context, Mosul Gov. Atheel al-Nujaifi told Al-Hayat yesterday that he supports this trend “if it stops the shedding of Iraqi blood.” It was also learned that, after returning from Tehran, the prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Nechirvan Barzani, called for establishing a Sunni region, saying this issue has been under discussion among Iran, the United States and Iraqi parties during the past few days.

Nujaifi, who has been holding provincial council meetings in Tal Afar in the Ninevah plains region since armed groups occupied Mosul, said that preventing civil war is a “priority,” adding, “We used to ask for administrative provinces and to strengthen the management of each province to make it a region. But if stopping the bleeding requires establishing a Sunni region, then we are with this proposal. … The situation in Mosul is getting worse. Basic services are absent, electricity has been cut and water is scarce. … I am still the city’s governor and those who have been offered the job by the militants have rejected it. We are trying everything to rescue Mosul.”

Regarding the government announcement to establish a military brigade under its command, he said, “The decision was issued, but it has not yet been implemented, and if such a force is established it would be from the people of Mosul, and its goal would be to preserve the security of the city. We will not accept that the army stays inside the cities after today. Security must be self-security.”

For his part, Kurdistan Democratic Party figure Abdul Salam Berwari said in a phone interview with Al-Hayat, “The Kurdish political leadership sees since the 1990s that the only solution for the survival of a unified Iraq is to transform the structure of the state to reflect the population distribution of Iraqis. The basic components are the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, and the experience of the last 10 years supports what has always believed. … There is no solution except by establishing three regions for Iraq’s main components.”

Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani held two separate meetings for Kurdish security and political leaders because of the clashes between the peshmerga and ISIS near Kirkuk. Kurdish media reported that it was agreed to “not pull the peshmerga forces from the disputed areas and that Barzani [would] be the main representative of the territory in any negotiations and to give him the power to make the final decision,” noting that “the meeting stressed that Maliki was responsible for the crisis … and it was decided to avoid confrontation with ISIS and to maintain a position of self-defense.”

Pointing to the worsening differences between Erbil and Baghdad, Nechirvan told the BBC that Iraq can never return to the period before ISIS’s expansion and called on "Maliki to step down from office after the completion of the current phase," sayaing "an independent Sunni region" is the "best solution to rule the country." In addition, the Kurds decided to increase oil exports to 400,000 barrels per day via Turkey despite the closure of the Beiji refinery and Iraq’s declaration that it would need to import half its oil needs after the closure.

The United States announced it is sending 275 military personnel to Iraq to protect US citizens and it has evacuated some embassy employees and their families. Turkey also evacuated its [remaining] personnel from its consulate in Mosul and decided to withhold information about its kidnapped staff.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday that foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria pose the biggest threat to his country.

Regarding the security situation, a group of militants took control of the al-Qaim border crossing with Syria in Anbar after the army and police withdrew from the crossing’s vicinity. Sources reported to AFP that gunmen from the Free Syrian Army took control of the crossing, noting that they control it from the Syrian side.

In Baquba, a police colonel said, “We have found the bodies of 44 people shot dead inside the police station in al-Mafraq.”

The militants controlled, for several hours, three neighborhoods, including Mafraq in Baquba, which is only 60 kilometers (37 miles) northeast of Baghdad. This was the first attack since the start of attacks that targeted different parts of Iraq a week ago.

Overnight, Maliki sacked high-ranking officers in the government and brought them to military courts and investigative bodies, according to an official statement broadcast by the government Al-Iraqiyya channel.

Among those Maliki fired were the operations commander in Ninevah province, his chief of staff and the commander of the Third Infantry Division, accusing them of fleeing the “battlefield.”

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