Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Just When it Ends in Basra, it Begins in Mosul! | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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In the last week of last March, a US Army official in Iraq stated that the coalition forces will focus their attention on Basra as soon as they conclude the military operation in Mosul against Al-Qaeda and Sunni fighters. He added that thousands of Marine forces will be deployed in Basra and its environs.

Earlier in the month during his visit to Baghdad, American Vice-President Dick Cheney asked Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to implement General David Petraeus’s plan that aims to eliminate Muqtada al Sadr’s strongholds in Basra. Following, Cheney held discussions with Abdul Aziz al Hakim, al Sadr’s archenemy and head of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), about the plan to wipe out the Mehdi army. Cheney referred to al Hakim as “my friend who is working actively with the US and the Iraqi leadership for freedom and democracy in Iraq.”

The plan had been set to be implemented next summer; however, for undisclosed reasons al Maliki decided single-handedly to “pounce” on al Sadr and the Mehdi army. He was later assisted by the US Air Force and British artillery after which he dispatched a representative from his Dawa party and another from SIIC to Qom to request Brigadier General Qassim Suleimani’s mediation between them and Muqtada al Sadr to reach a ceasefire agreement.

Suleimani is the official in charge of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) operations abroad and is the head of the Quds force that the US troops hold responsible for the violent operations and bombings. Moreover, the US administration has placed the IRGC on the US State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

Iran sensed that it could market itself as an ‘essential’ factor in the equation to secure stability in Iraq. Besides, its attempts to thwart the US-British control on Basra enables it to control the oil wealth in the south – since controlling Basra is a prerequisite – before major American oil companies can invest billions of dollars there.

This is why the US could not allow Iran to record another victory, especially since a victory in Basra would be twofold; securing southern Iraq and all the oil wealth that comes with it. Furthermore, US President George W. Bush’s administration cannot accept defeat in light of the circulating rumours stating that the next US administration will open up channels of diplomatic communication with Tehran, which is something that has made Tehran rush to play with the Iraqi ‘ropes’ that it has in its hands. This, in turn, is a move that will raise the ceiling of stipulations later on. This is particularly so since he [Bush] undoubtedly has informed it [Iran] that the five former US Secretaries of State; Henry Kissinger, James Baker, Warren Christopher, Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell recently sat down at a round table in Athens to hold discussions and consensually agreed to urge the coming US administration to open dialogue with Iran.

So far, the battle of Basra remains unresolved, same as the battle in Baghdad’s Sadr City, and while all attention is focused on the south another civil war is threatening to erupt in the north. The Kurds are actively working to annex al Tamim, the capital of which is Kirkuk and which is home to oil reserves that could reach up to 15 billion barrels. A referendum was drafted in the city that was meant to be launched in December 2007 but was postponed after al Maliki’s government realised that the outcome would not be in its favour.

Presently, the Kurdish people are working to ‘theoretically’ reverse the Arabization equation that former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein had imposed. In fact, the Kurds, if the referendum is not launched, are intending to annex Kirkuk by urging the Kurdish parliament to vote for the matter.

All the Sunni and Shia parties, including those affiliated to Muqtada al Sadr and former premier Iyad Allawi have considered the Kurdish demands to be unreasonable. Despite the Sunni Arabs’ opposition to giving Kirkuk to the Kurds, with full knowledge that the Kurdish people have sworn to die for the land, the ‘Kurdization’ process is ongoing around the city. The Kurds dominate over the municipal councils and in most jobs, including police posts, and this is what has led to the establishment of the Sunni Sahwa forces in the city – which are financed and armed by the US in the same way they are deployed in Iraqi Sunni areas.

But Kirkuk could fall into the clutches of a civil war if the Kurds refuse to relinquish it unless “the sons of Kirkuk refuse to join the Kurdish state,” according to a Kurdish source.

The Kurds have angered Turkey, which is calling for [the annexation] of Kirkuk and they are now evoking the anger of Syria which upholds that Mosul belongs to it. However; mainly, the Kurds are arousing the suspicion of the rest of the Iraqis.

Mosul is the second largest Iraqi city, the capital of Ninawa province and Washington considers it to be in the frontline in the war against terror, especially for combating Al-Qaeda.

Last month the [Chaldean Catholic] Archbishop of Mosul, Paulos Faraj Rahho was kidnapped and killed and the abduction and execution industry is still going strong, especially against the Christian inhabitants of the city. Moreover, unemployment rates exceed 70 percent (same percentage as Baghdad) and the US military is erecting a wall of mud and earth around the city in a bid to stop arms smuggling, in addition to spreading American and Iraqi checkpoints – however, all the Iraqi troops stationed there belong to the Peshmerga forces.

In this atmosphere of terror and killing, instead of confronting the Arabs and Al-Qaeda, the Kurds (troops and police) are carrying out ethnic cleansing operations against the Sunni Iraqis living in the city – and this is what the Americans cite as their victory in the war against terror.

The majority of the Kurds want their independence, which is a right that does not need to be debated; however, incorporating Kirkuk and Mosul as part of the Kurdish entity and the negotiations and agreements that the Kurdish government is presently undertaking with international oil companies are bypassing the central government in Baghdad. Moreover, the Kurdish government has signed no less than 30 contracts with international oil companies and is presently working on drafting a constitution that contradicts the Iraqi one that was established in 2005 after immense American pressure.

And yet, if it is the right of the Kurdish people to look into the fate of Kirkuk; Mosul is not part of Kurdistan. That is, if this whole plan does not aim to annex Mosul so as establish grounds to negotiate over Kirkuk!

The battles of Kirkuk and Mosul are looming ahead, without a doubt, and they will determine how Iraq will be divided between the Kurds, Sunnis and Shia. It will also decide who gets the oil. The Kurdish leaders have always known how to strike up the best deals with those who make better offers, and their only dream is to become independent.

Finally, in light of al Maliki’s campaigns against the militias, especially al Mehdi army, with the exception of al Dawa party and the Badr forces, Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani succeeded in forging an agreement with Nouri al Maliki to keep the Peshmerga forces on the grounds that they are an “organized force”. In fact three Peshmerga teams have joined forces with the Iraqi army in a number of military operations in various provinces.

Aside from ensuring that the Peshmerga forces were not dismantled, the Kurds also managed to obtain an agreement from al Maliki citing his acceptance of the oil contracts that the Kurdish government signed with international oil companies.

There is oil both north and south of Iraq and in the south a civil war is raging, while in the north it is about to unfold on the Mosul stage.