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Tuesday, 13 March, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 13 Mar 07, 06:26 PM

milliband_203.jpg
Environment Minister David Miliband talks about the government’s radical climate change proposals; the expensive court martial that has produced few answers about the death of Baha Mousa; seeking confidence in government statistics; and ITV Play is sacrificed, but what about the newspaper industry’s involvement with premium rate phone lines?

Comment on Tuesday’s programme here.

Is Baghdad violence a Kurdish problem?

  • Newsnight
  • 13 Mar 07, 10:32 AM

From Irbil in northern Iraq, Kurdish journalist Mohammed A Salih records concerns about local troops being sent to Baghdad.

mohammedarbil203.jpgThe other day, I woke early to go out for my usual reporting job.

The taxi driver tuned the radio to one of the local stations. The main story was about the sending of 1,800 Kurdish troops to Baghdad as part of the new Iraqi-American security plan to stabilise the capital.

This is in addition to a Kurdish brigade that left for Baghdad a few weeks ago. I could see the panic and dissatisfaction on the faces of the other taxi passengers.

"I see no sense whatsoever in sending our [Kurdish] soldiers to Baghdad," said the driver in a very disgruntled voice.

"I swear by God, the same with me," said the passenger in front sitting next to him.

"Just tell me what they can achieve in the chaos over there."

In no time I was in the middle of a heated debate about the general situation in Iraq. Although Kurdistan in the north has been spared much of the bloodshed of other parts of the country, many here are worried that with Kurds fighting in Baghdad, the violence may spill over in to Kurdistan.

"We can't calm down the situation in Baghdad," said someone sitting next to me.

"We would become part of the problem and would start receiving the dead bodies of our fighters everyday."

"It's not our business to get involved in the fighting between Arabs. Let them sort it out themselves," the driver yelled.

Kurds, who are ethnically distinct from Arabs, have very little sense of Iraqi identity these days. The accounts of persecution at the hand of Saddam Hussein's regime are still very fresh in their memories. While feeling deeply sorry about the bloodshed in the rest of the country, they still believe "we must not be involved".

The discussion reflected how unpopular the move to send Kurdish soldiers to Baghdad is with the ordinary people here. The next news item was about a deadly bombing in front of a university in Baghdad. The driver sighed deeply.

"This is brutality. Whose conscience can accept doing this? All these poor innocent students dying. What for?"

Others nodded in agreement.

With sectarian divisions running deep in Iraq today, US and Iraqi officials hope that Kurdish soldiers can keep the peace in Baghdad. The Kurds are neither affiliated with, nor against any of the conflicting Shia and Sunni Arabs there. But most of the people I talked to in Irbil, Iraqi Kurdistan's regional capital, didn't like the idea. They doubt Kurdish soldiers can make any positive contribution to the deteriorating security situation in Iraq.

Many of them question what Kurdish soldiers can do when tens of thousands of well-equipped Iraqi and American troops cannot change things for better. They feel the presence of Kurdish soldiers can only create more targets and increase the number of dead.

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