FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Final Explosion Looms

by PATRICK COCKBURN

 

Mosul.

Across northern Iraq people are voting with their feet. In and around Mosul, the third-largest Iraqi city, some 70,000 Kurds have fled their homes so far this year. Many have run away after receiving an envelope with a bullet inside and a note telling them to get out in 72 hours. Others became refugees because they feared that a war between Arabs and Kurds for control of the region was not far off.

“There is no solution except the division of the province,” said Khasro Goran, the powerful Kurdish deputy governor of Mosul. He believes that all the Kurds in the province want to join the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which under the federal constitution is almost an independent state.

Violence in Mosul, a city of 1.75 million people, is not as bad as in Baghdad or Diyala province, claims Mr Goran, who is also head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Mosul, during an interview with The Independent inside his heavily fortified headquarters. This is not saying a great deal, since he added that 40 to 50 people were being killed in Mosul every week.

“Two officials from the KDP working in this building were shot dead outside their homes a few days ago,” said Mr Goran, an urbane, highly educated man who spent 11 years in exile in Sweden and speaks five languages. He has been the target of eight assassination attempts, in which several guards have been killed.

It was only possible for me to go to Mosul because Mr Goran sent several of his bodyguards in two cars to pick me up in the Kurdish capital, Arbil. Travelling at high speed into Mosul, they pointed to the remains of the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which had been destroyed by a large suicide bomb in a Volvo in mid-August. The blast killed 17 men, mostly soldiers on guard. Fearing a similar attack, the KDP had just added another concrete blast wall to its already impressive defences.

The fate of Mosul, the largest city in Iraq in which Sunni Arabs are in the majority, may determine how far Iraq survives as a single country. The proportion of Arabs to Kurds in the province and city is much disputed.

There is no doubt that the Arabs are in a majority of around 55 per cent in the province, but they angrily dispute the Kurdish claim to make up a third of the 2.7 million population. When an Arab MP in parliament in Baghdad claimed this week that the Kurds made up only 4 per cent of the population of the city, all the Kurdish MPs staged a walk-out in a fury.

At the moment nobody wholly controls Mosul, one of the oldest urban centres on the planet, sprawling along both banks of the Tigris river. The 2nd Iraqi Army Division is based in the city, and the 3rd Division is outside, each 15,000-strong, and both of them are at least 50 per cent Kurdish, and with Kurdish commanders. But the Americans, fearful of the Sunni Arab reaction, have forbidden the army to patrol too aggressively.

If the Kurds have the army, the Arabs have the police. There are 16,000 policemen in the province, and 6,000 in the city. The Kurds regard them with the greatest suspicion. As we drove to the KDP headquarters, one of the Kurdish bodyguards told me to “hide your notebook and pen if we stop at a police checkpoint, because we don’t trust them”. The Kurds have long accused senior police officers of being crypto-Baathists, sympathetic to the insurgents.

The US experience in Mosul has not been happy. During the first year of the occupation General David Petraeus, the US commander of the 101st Division, tried to conciliate the many officers and officials of Saddan Hussein’s regime who came from Mosul. In the long term the experiment failed. When US marines stormed Fallujah in November 2004, most of the police in Mosul resigned, and insurgents captured 30 police stations and $40m (£21m) worth of arms almost without firing a shot. The US was forced to call in Kurdish peshmerga fighters to retake the city.

The US and Kurds still co-operate. The Americans are highly reliant on Kurdish intelligence to search for guerrillas. But they are also conscious that a recent confidential Pentagon poll leaked to ABC television showed that 75 per cent of Sunni Arabs in Iraq supported armed resistance. The US forces, who used to have four bases in the city, have now retreated to one large base at the airport.

A final explosion may not be far away. Under article 140 of the new Iraqi constitution, there must be a vote by the end of 2007 to decide which regions will join the KRG. Mr Goran says that such a poll could see all of Mosul province east of the Tigris and the districts of Sinjar and Talafar to the west of the river joining the KRG. “As we get closer to the implementation of article 140, the problems will get worse,” he says.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of ‘The Occupation: War, resistance and daily life in Iraq‘ published by Verso.

 

 

 

 

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Georgina Downs
Hillsborough and Beyond: Establishment Cover Ups, Lies & Corruption
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
David Yearsley
Miles Davis: Ace of Baseness
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail