Iraqi Kurdistan: Does Oil Play A Role In Request For US Troop Extension?

During a televised speech today, Iraqi Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani publicly requested Baghdad retain U.S. troops beyond a Dec. 31 deadline to withdraw. He warned that the country could relapse into sectarian violence or even a civil war, but another consideration could be behind the request.

A 2008 agreement between Iraq and the United States calls on the U.S. troops to leave Iraq at the end of the year, but all or some of the almost 50,000 troops remaining could stay at Iraqi request. Barzani further noted that Iraqi forces are in no position to defend the borders themselves, and recent events involving Turkey, Iran and Kuwait give weight to that observation.

Separately, Barzani spoke at a conference for Kurdish representatives and accused Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of wanting to concentrate power in Baghdad. This may point to another yet another issue U.S. troops could resolve for Barzani: that the Kurdish Autonomous Region would like to annex traditionally Kurdish areas of neighboring provinces into Iraqi Kurdistan — including the extensive oil fields near the city of Kirkuk. The central government has been slow to address Kurdish rule over the area, possibly because it would not like to lose control of those fields.

U.S. troops have so far helped Kurdish Peshmerga forces maintain a small but peaceful presence alongside Arab forces in some contested areas. Earlier this year, however, a sharp increase in Kurdish Peshmerga troops near Kirkuk heightened tensions briefly. Should American troops leave altogether it could thwart any Kurdish attempts to exercise their authority in those areas.

Meanwhile, at least 10 Iraqis were killed and eight more were wounded across the country.

Gunmen fired upon a minibus near Haditha, killing eight soldiers and the bus driver. Another soldier was wounded.

A policeman was shot to death in Hibhib.

Two civilians were wounded in Garma when a sticky bomb exploded. The two men are related to a policeman.

In Baghdad, a sticky bomb wounded two people in Mansour.

An explosive device wounded two people in Qaim.

A civilian was wounded in Kirkuk, as Kurdish Asayesh agents tried to dismantle a bomb.

Author: Margaret Griffis

Margaret Griffis is a journalist from Miami Beach, Florida and has been covering Iraqi casualties for since 2006.