Who is behind Kirkuk Bombings?
Terror campaigns have turned Kirkuk into one of the most dangerous cities in Iraq. The intensity and frequency of the attacks in the city has increased in parallel with the formation of Dicle Operation Forces (DOF), which was formed by the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The governor of Kirkuk issued warnings that with the arrival of DOF, it will be extremely difficult to protect the city, and maintain stability.
The city witnessed another bloody attack on the morning of February 3, where more than 30 civilians were killed, and dozens injured. The timing of the attack is quite calculated because the giant Exxon Mobil oil company alongside Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) officials visited Qara Hansher oil exploration bloc to discuss building a camp there. Qara Hansher is located in the north of Kirkuk.
Kirkuk and other parts of Kurdistan are not under the control of KRG because they are classified as ‘disputed territories’. This has been considered as one of the key issues which are disputed by Baghdad and Kurdistan.
During the opposition to Saddam Hussein, and following the toppling of Baath regime Iraqi politicians promised Kurds that Kirkuk and other areas of Kurdistan that were not under the effective control of KRG will eventually be incorporated into Kurdistan. The Iraqi constitution included an article (Article 140) whereby the disputed territories were set to be resolved through a referendum. This article has not been implemented by the Iraqi government, and they have continuously endeavored to disregard its significance.
Maliki has tried to avoid the referendum in bold terms, and his actions speak quite loudly. He has tried to reduce the role of Kurdish forces within Kirkuk province by attempting to occupy it through the formation of DOF. He has even threatened to occupy the whole of Kurdistan, and destroy the federal structure of Iraq. It seems, if Maliki has sufficient strength and support he will not hesitate to replace Saddam Hussein. His policies towards Kurds are reminiscent of Saddam Hussein, who ethnically cleansed Kurds, and started an ‘Arabization’ process in the region during his reign.
The resistance of Kurdistan region to comply with Maliki’s dictatorial orders and tendencies illustrates that Kurds will not give up their rights easily. We will not compromise our national territory or natural resources, and the more obstacles Baghdad tries to create for Kurds, the less likely it will be for Maliki to implement his policy of eradicating Kurdish influence in the region.
The city of Kirkuk has become a playground for terror groups that are often manipulated by various political forces within and outside of Iraq. These militia groups are not so-much the result of religious radicalization in the region, as much as they are of politically orientated policies that aim to propagate violence for the sake of instilling fear in the people. One thing is for sure, whoever pulled the ‘trigger’ in recent bombings in Kirkuk, the main culprit is Maliki and his dictatorial predisposition.
KRG has developed its oil policy successfully, and it is the foundation of becoming economically independent in Kurdistan. Despite threats from Baghdad, and the constant wooing that is going on behind doors by Maliki with the CEO of Exxon Mobil to continue pumping oil in Southern Iraq, Kurdistan has managed to pull several giant oil companies. Kurdistan offers stability, and this is KRG’s victory over Baghdad in the battle of oil contracts.
Exxon Mobil’s entry to Kurdistan opened doors for several other giant oil companies such as Chevron, France’s Total and Russia’s Gazprom Neft. This has caused tensions to grow between Kurdistan and Baghdad because oil contracts inevitably change the balance of powers in the region. Baghdad is afraid that Kurdistan will become strong, independent and powerful. This is why, terror campaigns seem politically orientated because they cause instability in the region, which could potentially ‘scare off’ oil companies in Kurdistan.
Consequently, KRG must ensure that Kirkuk regains stability, and maintains it. There would be anti-terror teams and intelligence forces deployed into the province to prevent more deadly attacks, and provocations in this city.
Iraqi security personnel are seen at the site of a suicide bomb attack in Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad February 3, 2013.