First Published: 2012-11-16

 

New Iraq army HQ sends Arab-Kurd ties to new low

 

Kurds blast Baghdad’s formation of Dijla Operations Command in Kirkuk, Diyala seen as blow to expansion dream of Kurdistan.

 

Middle East Online

By Marwan Ibrahim - KIRKUK, Iraq

Maliki warned Kurdish peshmerga forces to "avoid provoking" Iraqi security forces

The formation of a new military headquarters covering disputed territory in northern Iraq has sent already-poor relations between Baghdad and its autonomous Kurdish region plummeting.

The new Tigris Operations Command, based in Kirkuk city and covering all of the province of the same name as well as neighbouring Salaheddin and Diyala, has drawn an angry response from Kurdish leaders who want to incorporate much of the area into their autonomous region.

The latest dispute strikes at the heart of an unresolved row between Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government in Arbil over territory, oil and the interpretation of Iraq's federal constitution.

"The formation of the Dijla (Tigris) Operations Command in Kirkuk and Diyala is an unconstitutional step by the Iraqi government," Kurdish regional president Massud Barzani, an opponent of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said in recent remarks.

"The intentions, aims, formation and actions of this command centre are against the Kurdish people, the political process, co-existence and the process of normalising the situation in the disputed areas."

Maliki, a Shiite Arab, responded by warning Kurdish peshmerga forces to "avoid provoking" Iraqi security forces.

"We call on peshmerga forces not to carry out any acts that arouse tensions and instability in those areas, and we advise them to stay away from government forces," said the statement, attributed to Maliki and referring to his position as commander in chief of Iraq's armed forces.

Kurdish leaders want to the expand their autonomous region across a swathe of territory that stretches from Iraq's eastern border with Iran to its western frontier with Syria, against the strong opposition of Maliki's government.

The unresolved row poses the biggest threat to Iraq's long-term stability, diplomats and officials say.

The central and regional governments are also embroiled in disputes over energy contracts awarded by Kurdistan that Baghdad regards as illegal, and a variety of other rows.

The Tigris Operations Command was set up on September 1 with its head Lieutenant General Abdulamir al-Zaidi saying it was intended to address poor security coordination in the area that had allowed several violent attacks to occur.

Zaidi, also head of the army's 12th division, which covers Kirkuk and parts of Salaheddin, insisted to AFP that his forces were not entering Kirkuk city, an ethnic tinderbox of Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen that is secured by the local police force.

But Kirkuk province's Kurdish governor Najim al-Din Omar Karim has refused to cooperate with the new command, arguing there was already sufficient coordination between existing institutions.

"I am the head of the (provincial) security committee, which includes commanders of the police, intelligence agencies, peshmerga, and the 12th brigade of the Iraqi army -- we already have major cooperation, we don't need a new operations command," he said.

"The Iraqi army must not intervene, we cannot accept the imposition of martial law on us."

US forces played a coordinating role between Kurdish and Arab forces in disputed territory, particularly in Kirkuk, forming joint patrols and checkpoints comprised of US soldiers, Iraqi soldiers and troops, and Kurdish peshmerga forces.

Most Iraqi policemen in Kirkuk are Kurdish, while the majority of Iraqi soldiers are Arab.

But since US forces withdrew last year, relations between Baghdad and Arbil have become increasingly bitter, with Barzani saying earlier this year he feared Maliki would use soon-to-be-delivered US-made F-16s to attack Kurdistan, and pushing to withdraw confidence from the premier's unity government.

Maliki insisted in an earlier statement that the new command centre did not target any specific group and that it was set up solely to fight terror.

Kurds, however, remain unconvinced.

"We respect and appreciate the Iraqi army, it belongs to all of us, but it must stay in the barracks and work for security at the border," Karim said.

 

17 killed in fatal Cairo building collapse

Syrian air strikes on Raqa kill 63 civilians

Essebsi leads Tunisia presidential vote

Death toll rises from Morocco flash floods

Lebanon's Jumblatt tweets his life besides politics

Egypt nabs five Salafist leaders

Paris pushing for 'safe zones' in war-torn Syria

New air strike hits Tripoli’s sole operational airport

Pentagon chief steps down

Saudi seeks to ‘knock out’ shale oil competitors from oil market

Yemen troops free 8 hostages from Al-Qaeda

Italy hails Egypt as 'strategic partner'

US Congress skeptical of Iran nuclear talks extension

Khartoum, Darfur rebels open ceasefire talks

Time runs out for biggest chance to resolve Iran nuclear standoff

Egypt leader heads to Italy

Morocco arrests six over online IS allegiance pledge

Iraqi forces retake areas near Iran border from jihadists

Southern Morocco storms claim eight lives

Marzouki, Essebsi set for runoff in Tunisia presidential vote

Biden wraps up Turkey visit without breakthrough on Syria

Sudan launches investigation into claims of 'mass rape' in Darfur village

Assad urges ‘real pressure’ on backers of 'terror'

Israel eyes powers to revoke rights of Arab residents

Iraq death sentence to ex- PM threatens to damage ties with powerful tribe

Iran hardliners resist possible nuclear deal in rare protest

After failure of boycott, Bahrain Shiite opposition resorts to accusations

Tunisia votes for president in first free and multi-candidate election

Hope for change and stability as Tunisia prepares to elect new president

Saudi detainee sent home as US speeds up Guantanamo repatriations

Economy and security top agenda of Sisi’s first European tour

Benghazi attack report clears Obama administration of serious charges

Voters bet on stability in crucial Bahrain elections

Hurdles remain high as Iran and world powers press on for nuclear pact

Shebab ‘revenge’ attack leaves 28 innocents dead in Kenya

Strains between Washington and Ankara despite declared agreement

Paypal teams up with AttijariWafa Bank to boost Morocco exports

UN begins sending winter aid to Iraq

Turkey launches all-out war against bonzai drug

Turkey to build bridge across Dardanelles to ease traffic

IS launch major attack on Ramadi

Biden: You cannot think free where you cannot challenge orthodoxy

Does Abbas have enough political influence to stop violence in Jerusalem?

Turkey offers military assistance to Iraq

Bomb hits police post near Helwan University in Egypt