Thursday, March 22, 2007

Kirkuk

In early- 1990s Bosnia, shortly before the war but after the onset of conflict in Croatia, they told a joke that went like this:

Q: Why has the fighting not reached Bosnia yet?

A: Because Bosnia has advanced directly to the final round.

The joke plays on the multi-ethnic nature of the Bosnian state, as an obvious source of conflict--why wouldn't there be a war there, if there was elsewhere in the region? People have been asking the same question of Kirkuk, a midsized city in Northern Iraq, for some time. Kirkuk, which has been compared to Sarajevo, has a mixed Arab, Kurdish, and Turkmen population. No one seems to know who's in the majority, but everyone is happy to tell you they are. To date, there has been relatively little violence, despite high tensions.

Looks like that's changing. Meantime, a referendum on the city's status within federal Iraq looks likely to be delayed. It has 0nce been thought to be a potential cause of ethnic conflict. Instead, conflict looks likely to overtake events and prevent the referendum from taking place.

Bad to worse, in short.
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