There seems to be a war looming in Northern Iraq over Kirkuk, which sits atop one of the largest oil reserves in the world. No one really seems to be talking about this with other big issues dominating the headlines. This could eventually involve Turkey and Iran, but Kurdish officials have warned Turkey to stay out of it.
Chillingly, each side has increased its warnings that it is armed and ready to fight.
Kurds, in particular, have well-armed, highly trained peshmerga militias with years of experience fighting in the past conflicts of northern Iraq.
But Arabs too say they are ready to fight. “We tell the Kurdish political parties to have a clear understanding, that if they try to make Kirkuk a part of Iraqi Kurdistan, then war is coming here,” warned Sheik Abdul Rahman Munshid, a Sunni Arab leader.
“They should know we are ready, we are already organized,” said Munshid, speaking in his palatial white marble home hidden behind high walls. Munshid’s neighborhood is known for its links to Saddam’s loyalists and Sunni insurgents, some with al-Qaida links, according to residents.
A powerful ally of the Arabs are the Turkomen, a minority in Iraq concentrated in the north. They accuse Kurds of intimidation bombings and kidnappings against them. They say that by resettling their people, the Kurds are changing the city’s ethnic balance and taking away Arabs’ and Turkomen’s voting rights.
“If Kirkuk goes to Kurdistan, we will fight. I will fight,” warned Ali Mehdi Sadiq, a representative of the Turkomen. Such a war, he warns, “will bring in other countries in the region, Turkey and Iran. They care about what happens here.”