WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – “I think we have to go back” to the security arrangements in Kirkuk, “before ISIS came in 2014,” Dr.Najmaldin Karim, who served as Governor of Kirkuk province from 2011 until October 2017, told Kurdistan 24.
“At that time, there was a brigade of Peshmerga there,” he explained. “There was the Iraqi army outside the city, and there was a local police force” inside the city, and it was backed by the intelligence agencies.
“There should be a redeployment of the army to go to the areas where ISIS is strong,” Karim continued. And “the Shia militias, who have no business in the city of Kirkuk, should go back to their original place or to places where they are needed to combat ISIS,” he added.
Karim offered his ideas for addressing the threats posed by the reemergence of the Islamic State in Kirkuk, after he spoke last week to the Washington Kurdish Institute, which he, himself, founded in 1996—when Saddam Hussein still ruled in Baghdad, and the Kurdistan Regional Government had been in existence for a mere five years, its future unclear, at that time.
The Islamic State is resurgent in Kirkuk province and other areas of the disputed territories, and elsewhere in Iraq, too—despite former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s declaration of victory against the terrorist organization in December 2017.
Kirkuk suffers from other troubles as well, particularly its “Arabization,” under the acting provincial governor, Rakan Saeed al-Jabouri, who is Arab himself. Karim described that problem as well.
Characterizing Jabouri’s policies as “contrary to the spirit of brotherhood in Kurdistan and coexistence,” Karim explained that people who had been deported during Saddam’s rule – who had their properties and homes seized and given to others – returned after the regime was overthrown in 2003.
“Now they are being evicted one more time, and settlers from other parts of Iraq are being brought in to take over their lands and their homes,” he said.
Jabouri has been charged with corruption, but he, nonetheless, continues to hold the position of provincial governor.
Karim emphasized that the move to bring Arabs into Kirkuk and replace Kurds “is an organized campaign” carried out with “the blessing of Baghdad, because all the orders have to come from Baghdad to be able to do this.”
An informed Kurdish source concurred, emphasizing to Kurdistan 24, that if the Iraqi government “implemented the constitution and the laws,” Jabouri “couldn’t do these things.”
Karim provided some examples of the growing insecurity in Kirkuk province. “Just yesterday, ISIS attacked a Shia shrine in Daquq,” some 40 kilometers south of Kirkuk.
“Six people were killed,” he said, while “nine or 10 were wounded.” He emphasized that the attack occurred not in some remote area, but on a major road that links Daquq and Kirkuk.
He noted that the Kurdish Kakai villages in Daquq have been evacuated because many of the minority religious group have been killed or kidnapped by the so-called Islamic State.
Karim also explained that the Islamic State has reemerged in Diyala province, the Hamrin mountains, and the Hawija area.
Asked about the possibility that the Baghdad parliament might vote to end the US military presence in Iraq, following the recent Israeli strikes on pro-Iranian militias in Iraq, Karim responded, “You hear these voices more,” because of those attacks.
Yet, they come “mostly from the Shia political groups and the head of the Shia militias,” he continued. “How the population feels about that, I’m not sure. They probably would like to keep them.”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany