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Opinion: An uncertain future

After US withdrawal, Kirkuk's future murky even for fortune tellers

Gen. Aydin Khalid, senior deputy interior minister in Baghdad, told me he believed violence would not return to the levels of two years ago. The issue now, he said, isn't equipment or training, but rather intelligence.

“The terrorist attacks are trying to plant sedition among the ethnic components in Kirkuk,” said Ruzgar Ali, the head of the Kirkuk Provincial Council. They will not succeed, he said.

Amid the turmoil, the ethnic groups in Kirkuk — Turkmen, Kurdish and Arab officials and political parties — called for unity and restraint to block those who are trying to take advantage of the withdrawal of American forces from Iraqi cities.

The Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITF) issued a statement saying it was demanding the results of the investigation into the truck bombing two weeks ago. “The authorities should tell us who is behind the attacks and who is responsible for the latest security breaches, which has become very clear in Kirkuk.”

Ershed Salahi , the head of the ITF’s Kirkuk Bureau, said his group was demanding more Turkmen in the Kirkuk police force, which is dominated by Kurdish forces. Kurdish political parties have also deployed the Peshmerga, the Kurdish militia, in Kirkuk and other disputed areas in the north. The United Nations has recommended joint control of Kirkuk.

On Thursday, hundreds of Peshmerga appeared in Bay Hassan and Sergiran, areas northwest of Kirkuk that are rich in oil and natural gas. They controlled the sites for six hours in what a Kirkuk official called a show of force in the disputed areas. The Iraqi Army’s 15th Division forced them to leave. The incident, which wasn't widely reported, could clearly lead to larger confrontations.

Iraq needs tens of billions of dollars to develop its oil and gas fields. But at the historic auction in Baghdad on June 30 offering development of the projects to the highest foreign bidder, the Iraqi oil ministry and the American oil company bidding on the Kirkuk field couldn’t agree on the price. It seems even the fate of Kirkuk’s oil is cloudy in the global economy's crystal ball.

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