Thursday, July 31, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Kurds emerge as winners in Iraq chaos

By
From page A1 | June 20, 2014 |

MULA ABDULA, Iraq — Among rolling wheat fields with machine-gun fire rattling in the distance, Kurdish fighters patrol the new frontier of their autonomous region of northern Iraq, dozens of miles from their official border. In front of them are Islamic militants, behind them is the Kurds’ newly captured prize, stretches of oil-rich territory.

In Iraq’s chaos, the Kurds are emerging as significant winners — and their victories are fueling sentiment among their population to declare outright independence.

As Sunni insurgents swept over a large chunk of northern Iraq and barreled toward Baghdad the past two weeks, Kurdish fighters known as peshmerga seized territory of their own, effectively expanding the Kurdish-run region into areas it has long claimed. Most notably, they grabbed the oil center of Kirkuk. And in contrast to the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, which is in turmoil, the Kurds are growing more confident, vowing to increase oil sales independent of the central government.

The gains have also brought the Kurds challenges barely imaginable just days ago. They must defend a new, 620-mile (1,000 kilometer) frontier against Sunni insurgents, led by an al-Qaida breakaway group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Some 300,000 Iraqis who fled the insurgent advance have flooded into Kurdish areas, an extra burden to an already cash-strapped autonomy government.

And the Kurds risk a backlash. In Kirkuk, Sunni Arabs and ethnic Turkmens — who have long opposed Kurdish claims over the city — threaten a revolt if the Kurds don’t share administration of the city and any oil revenues.

Still, the sense of exuberance is palpable among Kurds, who make up 20 percent of Iraq’s mostly Arab population.

“Now that the peshmerga took back our disputed areas, we should have our own country. We deserve it,” said Khaled Ismail in the Kurdish area of Khazer.

The 19-year-old student wants independence so Kurdistan can sell its own oil and have the status statehood brings, like a passport, representation internationally — and a national soccer team. “If we had a Kurdish team in the World Cup, it would be great,” he said.

Another man pointed to the strength of the peshmerga in contrast to the troops of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government, who collapsed in the face of insurgents.

“The peshmerga and al-Maliki’s army are as different as the ground and the sky,” said 59-year-old Ahmed Omar, wearing traditional Kurdish baggy pants. He also wants statehood. “We don’t want other people to interfere in our affairs.”

Declaring independence — and formally fragmenting Iraq — is not easy. The United States and neighboring Turkey oppose Kurdish independence. And the Kurds can expect constant clashes not just with insurgents but also with Iraqi forces if they unilaterally break away and claim the areas they grabbed, said Kurdish analyst Hiwa Osman. “If the Kurds want true independence, (there) has to be a treaty,” he said.

Given that resistance, the Kurdish government is pressing for even greater powers of autonomy but not full independence.

The Kurds’ territorial grab is substantial. The recognized Kurdish autonomous region — defined as three northern provinces — effectively expanded by 40 percent, estimated Gareth Stansfield, an expert on Kurdish affairs.

The peshmerga moved into territory all along the edges of their region, from near the Rabia border crossing into Syria in the northwest to the city of Jalula in the southeast near the Iranian border.

The Kurds say the move was to protect those areas when the military fled after the Islamic State captured the northern city of Mosul on June 6.

But many of these areas have large Kurdish communities that the Kurds have demanded be incorporated into their zone — making them unlikely to give them up.

This week, the peshmerga patrolled the frontline separating them from Sunni insurgents along wheat fields in an area known as Mula Abdula. The area is more than 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the official Kurdish zone’s borders. The area was littered with bullet casings, and gunfire and the occasional thud of a tank shell could be heard from fighting further down the road.

Some 15 miles behind them, in Kurdish hands, was Kirkuk and surrounding oil-rich lands.

“It’s by far the biggest field in the north, and now the Kurds sit on top of it,” Stansfield said.

The Kurdish autonomous zone has its own oil resources, currently producing about 220,000 barrels a day, and it has long argued with Baghdad over sharing revenues from that oil. The Kurdish government in May sold oil independently of the central government for the first time— around 1.05 million barrels, shipped to Turkey. In retaliation, Baghdad stopped giving the Kurds the proportion of the central budget they are entitled to receive.

Safeen Dizayee, the Kurdish regional government spokesman, said the Kurds intend to increase independent oil sales, aiming for 400,000 barrels a day.

“The more we can produce, the more we will sell,” he said.

He did not say whether they would take the more provocative step of selling oil from Kirkuk. Stansfield said it wouldn’t be difficult to pump Kirkuk’s oil to the nearby capital of the Kurdish zone, Irbil. If that happens, “the geography of the oil industry could change quite quickly.”

Such an explosive move would signal the Kurds’ intention to keep Kirkuk, where they have a large population. It would infuriate not only Baghdad but also Arabs and Turkmen who live in Kirkuk and also claim it as their own.

On Kirkuk’s edge, a leading Arab tribal elder said heavily-armed men were waiting to see if Kurds would share administration of the city and its oil.

If not, “then we must have an uprising against them,” said Sheik Abdul-Rahman al-Awaidi. “Nobody is stupid enough to give up Kirkuk.”

A leading Turkmen official said his community is also arming, partly to defend against militants but also in case Kurds won’t share Kirkuk. “Turkmens need to defend themselves,” said Arshad al-Salihi.

In a Kirkuk market, men busily bought weapons looted from abandoned army bases. Nearby, Kurdish police patrolled in uniforms emblazoned with the colors of the Kurdish flag — red, white and green with the emblem of a golden sun.

Further north, Kurdish officials are dealing with 300,000 Iraqis who fled there the past two weeks — adding to 260,000 Syrian refugees and Iraqis who fled earlier fighting already in their areas.

The Kurdish government has promised its doors remain open and that it will give all the help it can. But many of the new arrivals say they have no intention of going home.

“We can’t go back, we have nothing to go back to,” sighed Aida Jabal, a 54-year-old from Mosul now in a camp near Irbil. “My neighbors said a shell hit on our house and it collapsed on itself.”

Stansfield said the Kurds could cite the cost of caring for refugees to convince the West to consent to it selling oil independently of Baghdad.

And now with Iraq falling apart, Kurdish officials clearly feel vindicated in their longtime calls for greater federalism that Arabs, both Sunni and Shiite, had criticized.

“We are not the ones who should be accused of the disintegration of Iraq,” said spokesman Dizayee. “Others are helping to take Iraq in that direction.”

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

It’s ‘camping for 30′ at the Solano fair

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Cities dealing with state drought rules

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Muralist helps locals ready for some painted wall history

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Rejection makes us each stronger

By Angela Borchert | From Page: A2

 
Highway 12 crash sends 2 to hospital

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Mall to host Ultimate Army Throw Down

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

Price will seek re-election as Fairfield mayor

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4

 
Police release name of Vallejo homicide victim

By Glen Faison | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Fairfield police log: July 29, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: July 29, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
.

US / World

Peace Corps evacuates over Ebola as 2 isolated

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Pipe break that flooded UCLA dumps 20M gallons

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4 | Gallery

Dissent quieted with most Israelis behind Gaza war

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Deadly Israeli strikes hit UN school, market area

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Obama takes tougher line against Gaza casualties

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
AP Analysis: Amid war, endgames in Gaza emerge

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

2 women survive ordeal along Indiana rail bridge

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Ex-IRS official called conservatives ‘crazies

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Suing Obama: GOP-led House gives the go-ahead

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
Congress cooperates – and fights – as recess nears

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

Powell maybe not told early about CIA techniques

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
Crews work to keep Yosemite fire from sequoias

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

Sanctions will damage Russia if not lifted quickly

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
Clashes prevent experts from reaching bodies

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

.

Opinion

 
Cruz gets border crisis wrong

By Ruben Navarrette | From Page: A11

Editorial Cartoons: July 31, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
What happened to the US?

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 9 Comments

Am I blaming victims?

By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A11

 
Why ‘compassionate conservatism’ is still dead

By Ramesh Ponnuru | From Page: A11

.

Living

Today in History for July 31, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: July 31, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscopes for July 31, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

 
I want to change my daughters last name to my maiden name

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Commentary: ‘Orphan Black,’ Emmy snubs and questions of identity

By Los Angeles Times | From Page: A6 | Gallery

Allison Williams headed skyward as NBC’s Peter Pan

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Contract dispute delays ‘Big Bang’ production

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

.

Sports

SF benefits from Pirates’ blunder, ends skid at 6

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Complete game shutout lifts Expos to State Tournament win

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Hammel fails again for Athletics in loss to Astros

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Ray Guy’s long wait for Hall of Fame comes to end

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Raiders owner confirms talks with San Antonio

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Lloyd’s film watching impresses 49ers teammates

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Stanford star Ty Montgomery rehabbing shoulder

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Greg Ives to crew chief Earnhardt in 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

Steelers to retire Hall of Famer Greene’s No. 75

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Fairfield-Suisun 6U Bobby Sox win titles

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B4

Usain Bolt in controversy at Commonwealth Games

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Indians trade pitcher Masterson to Cardinals

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Riley speaks out, insists Heat will be competitive

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Nadal out of 2 tournaments because of right wrist

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Pipe break that flooded UCLA dumps 20M gallons

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
.

Business

US judge slaps $1.3B fine on Bank of America

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5, 1 Comment

 
A more vigorous US economy appears to be emerging

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

Overhaul approved for troubled California refinery

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Judge says Crystal CEO should testify in lawsuit

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7, 1 Comment

.

Obituaries

Clifford C. Hemler

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Louise Scholten

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

Ronald Witt Escue Sr.

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Scott Allen Shaver

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9