By Dr. Bayad Jamal Ali:
In the past twelve years, since the regime change in Iraq, the different Iraqi factions have been in continuous struggle over claimed rights, territories, power, money, status, and different agendas, each according to their faction’s demands. Kurds have wanted to implement article 140 of the Iraqi constitution — to hold a referendum on the claimed Kurdish territories outside of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) control — but this has been stalled for years by the Iraqi Central Government. The Shia Baghdad government has kept persecuting the Sunnis, which has led to the welcoming of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria into Sunni territories. The different Shia forces have been in competition with each other, occasionally fighting to gain more power according to their loyalties. Here we have to ask: are these the real reasons behind all the clashes, or are all the Iraqi factions being played like puppets?
Tuz Khormato is a town in the disputed territories: it was previously in the province of Kirkuk but was attached to Sallahudin in 1976. It is around 60 km from the city of Kirkuk, and has been a place of clashes between the mainly Shia forces, together with the Turkman population, and local Kurds. In recent weeks these tensions have escalated, with clashes between Shia paramilitaries, along with the Turkman militia, against the Kurdish Peshmarga. The acts of terrorizing the Kurdish population of the town, with assassinations and kidnappings, are all attempts to drive Kurdish residents out of the town and change its demography, as has been happening in many parts of Iraq, in particular Diyala Province, which had a majority Sunni population but where the Sunnis are now in a minority compared to the Shias. But is the conflict in Tuz Khormato just about changing the demography and control of another town which might seem insignificant to the average citizen?
The two sides that are fighting may not realize the real importance of this town. Due to a fear that the Kurds are getting more control over Kirkuk’s oil — they have already started to export it through the KRG pipeline — the hidden agenda is that, if the “Iraqi Central Government” loses Kirkuk, the real players will deploy a technique to carry on taking Kirkuk’s oil: this is the slant drilling technique, illustrated below.
Iraq invaded Kuwait because it was using slant drilling to steal Iraqi oil, and Iran is currently using the same technique on many oil fields in the south of Iraq; if the Kurds lose control of Tuz Khormato, and the next town and then the next, Kirkuk will be surrounded by pipes all around stealing the oil from underneath the city.
The Kurdish leadership has been waiting for the referendum and constitutional methods to finalize the status of the disputed areas, not yet realizing that the towns are being taken by force by the opposition parties. We hope that the Kurdish leadership will unite for the cause that hundreds of thousands of people have shed blood for, and not be played like pawns in a game of chess.