One long-running on-the-horizon flashpoint in Iraq is the future of Kirkuk. At the insistence of the Kurdish parties, the Iraqi Constitution mandates that there will be a referendum on whether or not the Kirkuk region should be brought under the umbrella of the Kurdistan Regional Government. This has created a lot of incentive for KRG-aligned forced to try to push Arabs out of the area. Scot Maclead notes an International Crisis Group report on Kirkuk:
With every day and each exploding bomb that kills schoolchildren or shoppers, hopes for peaceful resolution of the Kirkuk question recede. The approach favoured by the Kurds, constitution-based steps culminating in a referendum by year’s end, is bitterly opposed by Kirkuk’s other principal communities – Arabs and Turkomans – who see it as a rigged process with predetermined outcome. Their preference, to keep Kirkuk under federal government control, is rejected by the Kurds. With all sides dug in and the Kurds believing Kirkuk is a lost heirloom they are about to regain, the debate should move off outcomes to focus on a fair and acceptable process. For the Kurds, that means postponing the referendum, implementing confidence-building measures and seeking a new mechanism prioritising consensus. The U.S. needs to recognise the risk of an explosion in Kirkuk and press the Kurds, the Baghdad government and Turkey alike to adjust policies and facilitate a peaceful settlement.
My motto is: People should listen to the ICG. They have a much better track-record than do many higher-profile organizations that policymakers and media elites prefer to listen to. In this case, however, while I think they’re right about this, I’m far from convinced that it’s really possible to implement the IGC’s alternatives at this point — how much leverage do we really have over the Kurds at this point? — but it would be worth a try. The last thing Iraq needs is a new conflict zone.