Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Perspective: Baghdad wary of Kurdish deployment

The deployment of Kurdish brigades in Baghdad neighborhoods controlled by followers of firebrand Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr has prompted hopes that the forces will bring peace, as well as fears that the move will stoke ethnic and sectarian tensions.

Around 3,000 Kurdish soldiers are deploying in Baghdad as part of the new security plan, which got under way this week. It's the first time Kurdish troops have been sent to the city in such numbers.

On 16 February, full-scale battle broke out in the southern city of Basra between British forces and the Mahdi Army militia, which is loyal to al-Sadr, raising the possibility that such all-out fighting may soon be seen in Baghdad.

For the past four years, relations between Kurds and al-Sadr followers have been sensitive at best. This is partly because the Sadr movement opposes federalism and article 140 of the Iraqi constitution calling for normalization in the ethnically mixed and oil-rich city of Kirkuk. Normalization refers to returning Kirkuk to its state before the Saddam regime, which imported Arabs and expelled Kurds. Many Sadrists believe the policy is being used to drive out Arabs and Turkomen.

Read the rest at ISN