MIDEAST > Iraq tensions added to regional turmoil

ARBIL - Hürriyet Daily News

Already a cauldron boiling with tension, the Middle East witnesses the emergence of another hotspot as Baghdad faces off against Arbil

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The head of the army’s 12th division and the Tigris Operations Command, Lt Gen Abdulamir al-Zaidi, adresses troops in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk. AFP photo

The head of the army’s 12th division and the Tigris Operations Command, Lt Gen Abdulamir al-Zaidi, adresses troops in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk. AFP photo

Selim Akan Selim Akan selim.akan@hdn.com.tr

Brewing tensions between Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish government in northern Iraq have been turning deadly this week as locals in Arbil express both concern and confidence over the violence amid new clashes in regional flashpoints such as Syria and Gaza.

With a senior Kurdish peshmarga leader from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) warning of retaliation after Baghdad deployed tanks and armored vehicles to a disputed city and formed a military command for areas bordering the Kurdish region, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani met with the KRG leader, Masoud Barzani, on Nov. 19.

Issuing a statement on the controversial Tigris Operation Command, Talabani said: “Bringing up the command issue at this sensitive time will not serve peace and security. On the contrary, it will cause chaos, fear and insecurity.”

Talabani’s visit to the Kurdish region came as clashes erupted Nov. 16 in the town of Tuz Khormato – an area claimed by Iraqi Arabs, Turkmens and Kurds – killing a civilian. On the night of Nov. 19, clashes between security forces of the central government and the KRG forces in Tigrit left 12 Iraqi soldiers and one civilian dead, Doğan news agency reported. The clash erupted when Iraqi soldiers attempted to enter northern Iraq; peshmargas tried to prevent the Iraqi soldiers from entering the area upon Barzani’s instructions.

‘Safer than Istanbul’

Amid the high-running tensions, locals expressed their confidence in the security condition in Arbil amid a cautious atmosphere in the city.

“Where do you live?” one man asked in the local bazaar. “This city is safer than Istanbul,” he quickly responded to the Hürriyet Daily News when he heard the name of the city. “There is no problem with the security, we get on well with the law enforcement officers,” another shop owner said.

Despite their confident statements, there are numerous police checkpoints on Arbil’s streets, while peshmarga forces patrol with AK-47 rifles. The city was also awash with rumors after the recent clashes between Baghdad forces and peshmarga. “The situation is very critical. We heard some reports that the two sides faced off against each other south of the city of Kirkuk and some roads were closed by the government,” another shop owner said.

Attack at any minute

Meanwhile, the commander of Kurdish peshmarga forces, Mahmoud Sankawi, warned that his troops could attack Iraqi government soldiers “at any minute,” after Baghdad’s military mobilization. Sankawi said his forces were on “high alert” and would resist if the central government continued sending forces toward Kirkuk. He said 30 tanks and several dozen armored vehicles were heading there overnight.

In a related development, Barzani told Turkish Ambassador to Baghdad Yunus Demirer and Consul General in Arbil Aydın Selcen during a recent visit by the pair that his administration was eager for the continuation of good relations with Turkey, Anatolian news agency reported.

Turkey and the KRG recently boosted their relationship, particularly in military, economic and trade terms, raising eyebrows in Baghdad.

Barzani said Nov. 19 that he also hoped for the enhancement of political, commercial and cultural cooperation with Turkey. For his part, Demirer said Barzani had an important role in the region, adding that the area would benefit from an improvement of relations.


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turkic voice

11/21/2012 10:25:37 PM

that guy Command, Lt Gen Abdulamir al-Zaidi even looks like saddam huseyin lol

Doctor Osmanov

11/21/2012 8:03:51 PM

Recep Ozel, right now the best way for Turkey to turn victorious in all this turnmoil going on around middle east is to solve its kurdish question in Turkey and form alliance with kurds in every part of Kurdistan. Turkey has hostile relations with Iran, Irak and Syria, three countries with large numbers of Kurds. That is why Erdogan is now accusing Al malaki, because if civil war breaks out in Iraq, it will spill out into Turkey and you will havea regional war in middle east.

Hakan Salci

11/21/2012 6:05:47 PM

Just look at the mess the 2 Gulf Wars have created in Iraq and the Middle East as a whole; the justifications given under the banners of 'democracy' and 'freedom' have turned out to be a white wash. Instead, ethinc tension, corruption, and sectarianism has been instilled across the region. The US and the west are solely responsible for the continued carnage and unrest in Iraq as well as the ME; they came into theatre without fully knowing the dynamics and culture of the region. An utter mess.

Recep Ozel

11/21/2012 12:25:35 PM

Why is Turkey supporting a breakaway Kurdish Iraqi state, civil war in Iraq, and the PKK supporter Barzani?? Can a journalist please answer this question?

sam stevens

11/21/2012 11:31:12 AM

Erdogan's accusation that the west wants to break up the muslim world makes me smile, he needs to take a look at the muslim world without his rose tinted glasses, only then will he see what a mess they are in & now ALL of their own making. Even those like Libya, who pleaded for help from the west, is still killing their own people & have not found democracy .

MR Somalia

11/21/2012 11:12:28 AM

I'm glad the Kurds are breaking free. I don't get why Arabs want to oppress the Kurds when they can't even free themselves from their dictators, so called royals which are nothing less than Western satellites. Let every Kurd recall Saladin and fight like him and his army but only for just including the recovery of Jerusalem once again. The Arabs and Turks have donated Jerusalem back to the enemies as they did before. The enemies knew if they were to control the region, Kurd division was must

ilker avni

11/21/2012 10:02:57 AM

@ mike alexandra The region is heading towards a sectarian war,with Iran dominating Shia Maliki who has become Saddam mark 2,Bush wanted a Kurdish state, and gave backing,Obama has carried on from Bush same policy towards a Kurdish state,supported by Turkey.Iran objects to Turkeys meddling and supports Maliki and has armed Maliki.,Turkey allready at odds with Iran over Syria,Iran has warned and threaten Turkey.Questions is will Nato protect or support Turkey if all hell broke loose,

John McAuliffe

11/21/2012 9:01:40 AM

Iraq has enough problems to deal with other than Gaza. Mr Maliki's attitude to Turkey is deplorable and so is his support for Syria ! Is that not a good enough reason for Israel and Turkey to work on what they have in common rather than differences ?

ilker avni

11/21/2012 8:04:59 AM

The Kurds up North are protected by the United States,after the invasion America wanted and supported a Kurdish state,Turkey objected at first,but were swayed by America with the promise of high earnings from trade and oil.Barzani asked Obama not to sell fighter jets to Iran backed Malaki,who is buying up arms like it was Christmas.Whats about to take place is a Sunni,Shia proxy wars,Rather a Israeli,Iran war,we could see Muslim wars,with America and Israel looking on selling they arms.

Truth Teller

11/21/2012 6:05:27 AM

The Free Kurdish zone in north Iraq is a real dilema for Turkey as this enbryo state will, at the end, support its Kurdish relatives in Turkey.
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