Saturday, March 15, 2008

Red Crescent warns of US teaming up with Peshmerga in the coming Mosul campaign

Azzaman said in its Thursday-Friday March 13-14 edition:
The Iraqi Red Crescent organization warned of a possible large-scale emigration (or exodus) of people from Ninawa and its main city Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq (population 8.3 million), once the security operations start, that have been planned for several weeks now by combined forces. The Disaster Management Division of the organization said in a statement that was obtained yesterday by Azzaman it thinks it very likely that this would cause a large exodus of families from those districts that see armed confrontations aimed at clearing the city of armed people.

Residents [the journalist continues, as if by way of explanation] blame the government which permitted Peshmerga militias to be active in regional matters, and they are trying to have this policy changed.

And the Red Crescent statement referred to the tension the city has been under since the Zanjili explosions that destroyed a hundred houses and wounded several hundred people.
The rest of the Azzaman piece outlines previous Red Crescent estimates of total numbers of Iraqi displaced persons, and talks about recent attacks on policemen and so on, and doesn't say anything more about the feared new Mosul evacuation. I was going to write something about it, but not only was there no elaboration in the Azzaman story, there also wasn't a corrresponding statement on the Red Crescent website, in Arabic or in English either.

Then on Saturday, Azzaman posted something included in its English-language stories, that provided a fuller explanation. It went like this:

By Salem Areef

Azzaman, March 15, 2008

The Iraqi Red Crescent Society is warning of a massive exodus if U.S. and Iraqi troops go ahead with plans to attack Mosul, the country’s second largest city with nearly 3.8 million people.

The northern city which is the capital of the Province of Nineveh has turned into a major stronghold for forces resisting U.S. occupation and elements of the al-Qadeda organization.

Tensions are high and violence has gripped the city in the past few months with at least one hundred houses destroyed and hundreds of people killed or injured.

Certain quarters are so violent that neither U.S. troops nor Iraqi forces are capable of entering.

But the society said it feared a joint attack in which units of Kurdish militias are to take part will lead to one of the largest waves of internally displace people the country has seen since the 2003 U.S. invasion.

Hard pressed ethnic and religious minorities in the city have been leaving either to the Kurdish north or neighboring Syria.

Mosul is a predominantly Sunni Arab city and residents are apparently unhappy with the role U.S. occupation troops have given to Kurdish militia fighters.

The Arabs see Kurdish involvement in areas which have traditionally not been part of Iraqi Kurdistan with suspicious eyes.

Kurdish militias are now present in most villages and towns which are administratively part of Mosul as the center of Nineveh Province.

Some of these areas hold huge oil reserves like Ain Zala.

There are already about three million Iraqi refugees in neighboring states and more than two million others are displaced as a result of ongoing U.S. military operations and sectarian strife.

This provides a better explanation what the fear is: US forces have granted a security role in the area to Peshmerga militias. The population, majority Arab, is not only unhappy with that, but there is also the fear that once the promised security operations start, Peshmerga will be involved alongside the US forces, and this will add further to the risk of mass exodus of Arab families.

(Oddly enough, there is still no corresponding statement on the Red Crescent site. Rather, what they have done is simply to link to the Azzaman English-language, from the English side of their site, with no mention of it on their Arabic-language side).

(Please recall that the December 24 Memorandum of Understanding between Tareq al-Hashemi's Islamic Party of Iraq and the two main Kurdish parties was rumored to include an addendum (never published) that in effect purported to grant the Kurdish parties and by implication the Peshmerga, some kind of jurisdiction over parts of Mosul and/or the wider Ninawa governate. This was discussed in my Dec 28 post called Sunni groups smell a sellout by Hashemi in the North.)

I mention these issues now, so that if and when this further refugee crisis comes to be, as a result of US forces teaming up with Peshmerga in an Arab area, no one will be able to say, as has been so often said in the past: "The US authorities knew nothing about it; it was nothing more than another blunder". Maybe that's why they put this in English.


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