Shifting Alliances In Iraq May Create New Conflicts

Most American attention has focused on relations between the United States and the Iraq government as they hammer out the last pieces of the security pact, but trouble may well be arising in other areas of Iraq that have nothing to do with the American presence. In recent weeks, Kurdish leaders in the north have clashed with Prime Minister Maliki over his plans to assist the Supporting Councils which are made up of pro-government tribal leaders. The Kurds believe Maliki is attempting to create an Arab presence in Kurdish regions in order to gain greater power, particularly over oil in the region. President Massoud Barzani warned Maliki “this is playing with fire.”

Maliki is furious that Kurdish leaders function as an autonomous government in northern regions of Iraq and even are negotiating with foreign oil companies. Last month, the Iraqi army came close to an armed clash with the Kurdish Peshmerga units which, in effect, are a separate army that protects Kurdish territory against Iraqis. The Washington Post recently reported three planeloads of arms from Bulgaria were flown into Kurdish areas. Maliki is also worried that Kurdish leaders will form an alliance with Sunnis to block his government from extending its power into certain areas of the country.

Of course, both Turkey and Iran have large Kurdish minorities and they will become upset if the Kurds extend their power within Iraq.