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Kurdish Troops May Help Secure Baghdad

Following the killing of 110 Iraqis in the first three days of last week, there emerged from both Sunni and Shia leaders in Baghdad a proposal which would have been inconceivable not long ago - deploying Kurdish troops in Baghdad to maintain order and keep the peace between Sunni and Shia Arab factions. As reported in the international Arab newspaper Al-Hayat (“Killing of 110 Iraqis in 3 Days… Shia and Sunni Leaders Not Opposed to the Introduction of Kurdish Troops in Baghdad to Separate the Arabs!”), the leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party said that Kurds were already fulfilling two security roles in Iraq; keeping order in three provinces - Sulaymaniya, Duhuk and Irbil - and contributing to the Iraqi national army. He said, however, that the Kurdish Provincial Authority had expressed its willingness to send further troops into Baghdad specifically to keep peace between Arab Sunnis and Shia.

Adnan al-Dulaimi, leader of the Sunni Accord Front, Iraq’s most important Sunni party, told Al-Hayat that “sending Kurdish troops into Baghdad is something that requires close study within the Front,” saying that there were “some elements within the Front which supported the proposal and there are some who support it in light of the lack of trust in the commando brigades and the security forces which operate under the Interior Ministry.” Jalal al-Din al-Sughayer, a spokesman for the ruling Shia United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), said that “the alliance does not oppose using Kurdish troops” as long as they “work within the law and under the authority of the government, in the name of government forces,” adding that “this issue needs close study at the political and security level in order to avoid making a rushed decision.” Referring to the suggestion by some that non-Iraqi Arab or other Muslim troops might be introduced, Baghdad Security Chief Mahdi Sabih was quoted as saying that the use of Kurdish troops was “preferable to the use of Arab or Muslim troops as proposed” by some officials.

In other political news, on Thursday Al-Hayat reported that while 200 former army officers and five armed groups had indicated a desire for reconciliation, legislators both inside and outside the ruling UIA criticized the government for moving too slowly on the security issue, with Sunnis emphasizing the failure to disarm the Shia militias (“Confirmed Contact by 200 Officers and Five Militant Factions Seek Inclusion in the Initiative”). Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was quoted as calling for patience, saying that it would be done but that the government could not simply disarm the militias “with the swipe of a pen.”

Separately, SCIRI declared its support for Moqtada al-Sadr’s initiative of rebuilding the holy places of Samarra and setting up special security forces to protect them (“SCIRI For Rebuilding… And Intensifying its Efforts to Promote Federalism in the South”). The same article also discussed how SCIRI, the most important Shia faction, is pushing forward with the promotion of a federated structure for the country. Sunnis warn that this will lead to the breakup of Iraq, but Shia supporters say that it is necessary to fight terrorism.

U.S.-Iraqi forces performed a number of operations over the last week (see Iraqi Police Free Kidnap Victim; Large Bomb-Making Cache Found, Coalition Helicopter Crashes in Iraq; Terrorists Killed, Captured, and Terrorists Killed, Captured; Helo Crash Response Draws Praise). The most significant seem to be targeted operations against two individuals, one an “Umar Brigade” recruiter near Baghdad, and another a foreign fighter facilitator in Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib neighborhood, as well as Iraqi raids in Baghdad as part of Operation Together Forward, which is the prime minister’s security plan for Baghdad. The Iraqi newspaper Al-Rafidayn reported the capture of Ali Najim Abdullah early in the week, who has been named as the head of a group calling itself the “Islamic Army in Iraq.” He was on the Iraqi government’s list of the “41 Most Wanted.”

There have been further operations over the weekend, especially in Ramadi. ThreatsWatch will update these events as details become clearer.