Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Perspective: Kurdish militia has the run of oil-rich Kirkuk

KIRKUK, Iraq - Lt. Hiwa Raouf Abdul is not supposed to be in Kirkuk. The oil-rich city, which many fear is teetering on the brink of civil war, is off-limits to Kurdish Peshmerga militia members.

And yet, on Tuesday, the slender, 26-year-old Peshmerga officer breezed through one checkpoint after the next on his way into Kirkuk, exchanging waves and salutes with Iraqi army soldiers and policemen as he rode with a truckload of Peshmerga gunmen.

Abdul is stationed in the nearby Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah, where the Peshmerga enforce strict security through a series of checkpoints, and his visit to Kirkuk came only because his commanders asked him to escort a reporter there.

But the ease with which a pickup truck carrying seven Peshmerga members, most of them wielding AK-47s, passed into Kirkuk says volumes about the challenge of pacifying flashpoint towns like Kirkuk and, ultimately, Iraq.

Read the rest at the San Jose Mercury News