Cablegate: Kirkuk: Tense, Returning to Normal, but No Resumption Of


DE RUEHGB #2463/01 2191516
O 061516Z AUG 08




E.O. 12958: N/A


REF: Baghdad 2423


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Over the past two weeks, ethnic relations in
Kirkuk have been buffeted by the passage - and subsequent veto - of
a controversial provincial elections law in Baghdad, a terrorist
attack at a Kurdish demonstration resulting in mass casualties, a
violent confrontation between Kurdish demonstrators and the Iraqi
Turkoman Front (ITF), and a Provincial Council (PC) resolution
passed by the Kurdish bloc threatening to join Kirkuk province to
the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Despite these events,
Kirkuk remains generally stable and calm with no immediate threat of
large-scale communal violence. Arab and Turkomen politicians have
entered into an informal alliance against the Kurds. While Kurdish
decisions to organize the July 28 demonstration and pass the
resolution on the Regions Law were perceived as provocative by the
other ethnic groups in the province, they are generally perceived as
political maneuvers meant to influence negotiations in Baghdad on
the elections law. END SUMMARY.

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Personal Ties Endure as Community Attitudes Harden
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

2. (SBU) While rhetoric over the veto of the elections law has
sometimes been heated, personal interactions between members of the
different ethnic blocs at the Kirkuk Government Building (KGB)
remain normal and even friendly. PRT members have observed Kurdish
and Arab Provincial Council (PC) members joking with each other over
the prospect of the implementation of the Regions Law in Kirkuk.
Leaders of all ethnic groups are speaking out against violence, and
asking for calm from their constituents. The PC meeting on 5 August
saw all blocs represented and proceeded normally, with no apparent
anger or difficulty.

3. (SBU) While it is nearly business as usual at the KGB, a media
battle is underway in Kirkuk between Kurd and Turkoman media
outlets. There are few Arab-specific media outlets in Kirkuk, and
no true independent media. Turkomen television stations, such as
Turkmeneli, present stories about Kirkuk with a Turkomen and Arab
bias, while Kurdish media outlets do the same for the Kurds. Biased
media coverage in Kirkuk contributes to ethnic tension, but to date
there has been no communal violence stemming directly from media
coverage, and we are working to improve media skills and discourage
inflammatory reporting.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Kurdish Political Tactics Provoke Other Communities
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

4. (SBU) Arab and Turkomen contacts blame the Kurds for increased
tension in Kirkuk over the past two weeks by organizing the 28 July
demonstration that led to the attack on ITF headquarters and, a few
days later while tensions in the city were still elevated, by having
the Kurdistan Brotherhood List (KBL - Kurdish bloc on the PC) call a
special PC meeting on 31 July to pass a resolution threatening to
implement the Regions Law in Kirkuk -- essentially threatening to
join the KRG. Subsequent PRT meetings with Kurdish PC members
confirm that both of these events were calculated political moves,
approved by the KRG leadership in Erbil, to influence the
negotiations over the elections law in Baghdad, but they were
perceived by Kirkuk's Arab and Turkomen communities as direct

5. (SBU) A key goal for the Kurds in Kirkuk is to prevent Iraqi Army
(IA) battalions from central and southern Iraq from entering Kirkuk.
Provincial leaders believe the current security situation in Kirkuk
is calm, and that sufficient IA and Iraqi Police (IP) are present to
maintain this peace (with which we and MND-N agree). Kurdish
leaders argue that IA battalions from the South will raise tensions
in the province, but they clearly believe that such moves would also
undermine Kurdish authority in the province. Kirkuk PC Chairman
Rizgar Ali (PUK) and PC member Mohammed Kamal (KDP) raised the issue
of IA deployments with Iraqi Minister of Defense (MOD) Abdul Qadir
during his visit to Kirkuk on 05 August. Abdul Qadir reportedly
said, "we have no intention to send extra troops into Kirkuk.
Kirkuk has more troops than it needs right now."

- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Turkomen Fearful for Security
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

6. (SBU) Turkomen leaders in Kirkuk have established an informal
political alliance with Arab leaders to prevent Kirkuk from joining
the KRG, believing that if Kirkuk were to join the KRG, both

communities would be marginalized. In meetings with the PRT, both
Turkomen and Arab PC members denounced the KBL's threat to implement
the Regions Law, but both blocs appear to believe that this was a
political maneuver meant to influence negotiations in Baghdad.
Tahseen Kahea (ITF) said, in a 04 August meeting, that the
implementation of the Regions Law was "only a political ruse, rather
than a petition to join the KRG."

7. (SBU) The Turkomen and Arabs have much in common politically, but
the Turkoman are more fearful about security conditions in Kirkuk
city, especially following the July 28 mob violence at ITF
headquarters. This incident left several dead (both Kurd and
Turkomen), and led to the detention of at least nine ITF members.
The details of this altercation are still under investigation, with
both sides blaming the other for initiating the violence. Turkomen
leaders are proponents of bringing IA battalions from the South into
Kirkuk, along with the establishment of a more prominent Coalition
Forces (CF) presence in the city. The Turkomen heavily backed the
vetoed version of the provincial elections law, and stood to benefit
disproportionately from the "32 percent" representational proposal.
(Most estimates are that Turkomen make up no more than 12 percent of
Kirkuk province's population.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Arab Kirkukis Less Threatened, but Aligned with Turkomen Against
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

8. (SBU) Arab leaders in Kirkuk province are much more focused on
the elections law than the Turkomen, and less on security, perhaps
because Arab Kirkukis mostly live on the edge of the city and in the
countryside. Top Arab politicians, particularly Deputy Governor
Rakan Saeed, and PC member Mohammed Khalil, appear to be in regular,
direct contact with members of the Council of Representative (CoR).
Rakan even claimed he was the author of the controversial Article 24
on Kirkuk's future status. Over the past two weeks, Arab leaders
from Kirkuk have made several trips to Baghdad to meet with
different CoR blocs - particularly ISCI, whom they hope will join
with the Sunni groups on the Kirkuk issue. The Arabs are proponents
of bringing in IA troops from outside the province, just as they
warmly welcomed efforts to establish what is now a predominantly
Arab IA/IP presence in the Arab area of Hawija. Arab Kirkukis
favored the "32 percent" proposal, but appear willing to settle for
a balanced ethnic split of the top three positions in the province
(Governor, Deputy Governor, and PC Chairman if they can get a
guarantee that Kirkuk will never join the KRG.

9. (SBU) COMMENT: Ethnic tensions in Kirkuk province seem to have
been managed following the July 28 violence. Leaders of all ethnic
groups have publicly called for calm, and have specifically avoided
statements that might inflame the public. Arab and Turkomen leaders
appear to perceive the KBL's threat over the Regions Law as a
political maneuver, rather than a serious threat to imminently pull
Kirkuk into the KRG. PC Chairman Rizgar Ali, at the 05 August PC
meeting, emphasized that Kirkuk was not joining the KRG now, which
may help to calm fears. While the threat of violence in Kirkuk has
been reduced, another violent incident in Kirkuk or political
breakdown in Baghdad could reawaken ethnic animosities. END


© Scoop Media

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