Fanning the Flames of Civil War

From Holden:

Are we really trying to bring peace and security to Iraq?

All signs point to no.

Police and security units, forces led by Kurdish political parties and backed by the U.S. military, have abducted hundreds of minority Arabs and Turkmens in this intensely volatile city and spirited them to prisons in Kurdish-held northern Iraq, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials, government documents and families of the victims.

Seized off the streets of Kirkuk or in joint U.S.-Iraqi raids, the men have been transferred secretly and in violation of Iraqi law to prisons in the Kurdish cities of Irbil and Sulaymaniyah, sometimes with the knowledge of U.S. forces. The detainees, including merchants, members of tribal families and soldiers, have often remained missing for months; some have been tortured, according to released prisoners and the Kirkuk police chief.

A confidential State Department cable, obtained by The Washington Post and addressed to the White House, Pentagon and U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, said the “extra-judicial detentions” were part of a “concerted and widespread initiative” by Kurdish political parties “to exercise authority in Kirkuk in an increasingly provocative manner.”

The abductions have “greatly exacerbated tensions along purely ethnic lines” and endangered U.S. credibility, the nine-page cable, dated June 5, stated. “Turkmen in Kirkuk tell us they perceive a U.S. tolerance for the practice while Arabs in Kirkuk believe Coalition Forces are directly responsible.”


U.S. and Iraqi officials, along with the State Department cable, said the campaign was being orchestrated and carried out by the Kurdish intelligence agency, known as Asayesh, and the Kurdish-led Emergency Services Unit, a 500-member anti-terrorism squad within the Kirkuk police force. Both are closely allied with the U.S. military.


A former fighter pilot said his interrogation in Irbil focused in part on whether he participated in the chemical weapons attack on the Kurdish city of Halabja in March 1988, in which an estimated 5,000 people died.

“I think it’s about revenge,” said the man, who identified himself as Abu Abdullah Jabbouri and who was released last week from the prison in Irbil.


Gen. Turhan Yusuf Abdel-Rahman, the chief of Kirkuk’s police force, described the abductions as “political kidnappings” orchestrated by the Kurdish parties and their intelligence arms. Abdel-Rahman, who is Turkmen, said at least four Arabs and one Turkmen were seized last week but that “there may be others.” On Sunday, two days after Blagburn’s remarks, the U.S. military received reports that nine more Arabs and Turkmens were missing.

Abdel-Rahman said his officers were taking part in the majority of the abductions despite his attempts to stop the practice. He said 40 percent of Kirkuk’s 6,120-member police force was loyal to the two Kurdish political parties. Acting on the parties’ orders, uniformed officers carried out the abductions using the police department’s cars and pickup trucks, he said.

“The main problem is that the loyalty to the police is to the parties and not the police force,” said Abdel-Rahman, 41, a career officer. “They’ll obey the parties’ orders and disobey us.”

Abdel-Rahman said he was deeply frustrated. “People ask us about their sons. What should I say to them?”