The US Army in Kirkuk: Governance Operations on the Fault Lines of Iraqi Society, 2003-2009
Occasional paper no. 35
ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLLEGE FORT LEAVENWORTH KS COMBAT STUDIES INST
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The city of Kirkuk is situated in northeast Iraq approximately150 miles from Baghdad along the Khasa River. Archeologists estimate the city to be more than 5,000 years old.1 Kirkuk s citadel, much of which is still in existence, dates back to 3000 BC. Known originally as the ancient city of Arrapha, Kirkuk rose to distinction while under Assyrian governance during the 10th and 11th centuries. Ruled subsequently by a succession of empires, such as the Babylonian, Median, Persian, Parthian, Macedonian, and Ottoman, Kirkuk slowly evolved into an ethnically mixed city inhabited by Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, and Assyrians. The city remained a home for this broad group of ethnicities into the 20th century. The discovery of oil after World War I in the nearby Baba Gurgur region heightened ethnic tensions in Kirkuk. After assuming political power in Iraq in 1968, the Baath Party initiated deliberate Arabization procedures to ensure Arab control of the lucrative oil fields. Hundreds of thousands of Kurds and Turkmen were forced from Kirkuk and replaced by Arab settlers from southern Iraq, thereby significantly altering the city s ethnic balance. After Coalition forces liberated Iraq and forced Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party from power in 2003, displaced Kurds and Turkmen began returning to Kirkuk to reclaim their land as Arabs fled the city. With proven reserves of ten billion barrels of oil, production levels of one million barrels of oil a day, and pipelines stretching to ports on the Mediterranean Sea, the Kirkuk region became a principal producer of Iraqi oil revenue. The equitable distribution of this revenue became a contentious issue in Iraq that further exacerbated ethnic unrest in the strategically and economically important city.