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Proposed Iraqi army base in Kurdistan creates tension - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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People walk past the site of bomb attacks in the town of Tuz Khurmato, 170 km (100 miles) north of the capital Baghdad, November 24, 2013. A car bomb and a suicide bomber killed at least nine people and wounded 54 in northern Iraq on Saturday, police and medical sources said, in the latest of a wave of attacks in crowded public places. The bombings took place in Tuz Khurmato, a region which both the central government and autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan claim as theirs. REUTERS/Stringer (IRAQ - Tags: CIVIL UNREST)

People walk past the site of bomb attacks in the town of Tuz Khormato, the proposed host town of a planned Iraqi Army base, 100 miles (170 kilometers) north of the capital, Baghdad, November 24, 2013. (REUTERS/Stringer)

Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iraq’s Dijla Operations Command, a special force launched in June by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki to protect the oil-rich Kirkuk region, plans to establish its headquarters in the municipality of Tuz Khormato, 55 miles (90 kilometers) south of Kirkuk in Salah Al-Din governorate, Asharq Al-Awsat learned on Friday.

The commander of the Dijla Operations, Maj. Gen. Abdelamir Al-Zaydi, said that a request had been made by the Iraqi Army Infantry Command for permission to open the headquarters and an attached military based to host all security forces in the region.

Lieutenant-General Jabbar Yawar, the spokesman for and secretary-general of the Iraqi Kurdistan Armed Forces, also confirmed the request to Asharq Al-Awsat. He said it was “a proposal from the land forces to confront the terrorist attacks which threaten the municipality.”

Security officials in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region dismissed the plan as trivial, saying that no major security decisions could be taken in the region. Kurds fear that if fully established in the region, the Dijla Operations Command could create tensions, following clashes between the Kurdish Peshmerga forces and government forces in the region earlier this year.

Under the Iraqi constitution of 2006, responsibility for security in the northern region of Iraq falls to both the central government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Yawar said the Peshmerga Ministry had “sent a message to the Dijla Operations Command, saying they were not in a position to make this decision unilaterally because the security dossier of the these regions is the responsibility of a Joint Higher Committee to include the Iraqi Army and Peshmerga forces, as described in Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution.”

He stressed that the security situation in the municipality was “under the control of the federal police and the Kurdistan Region’s police [Asayiş].”

He said the Kurdistan Region rejected “the opening a headquarters for the Dijla Operations Command in addition to its rejection of the intervention of the army in the security affairs of the municipality, especially when the region is committed to the agreement of not building bases for the Peshmerga in the municipality.”

A spokesman for Iraqi Kurdistan’s Peshmerga Ministry dismissed the plan’s importance by saying it was “nothing more than a reaction to the decision by the Tuz Khormato Council to sever administrative relations with Salah Al-Din governorate and instead join Kirkuk governorate.”

Yawar said the percentage of Kurds in the Iraqi army and security forces was in consistent decline and that “their percentage had dropped to 2 percent.” He warned that the loss of balance within the Iraqi army and security forces was a “warning signal for the future of Iraq and its armed forces.”