Iraqi people opposed to war in Kirkuk: Mohammad Yousef

A political analyst tells Press TV that not only the Kurdish people of Iraq’s Kurdistan region are against any confrontation with the government forces in Kirkuk but the Arab population is opposed to further war in the country.

The military standoff between KRG and Baghdad erupted in November after the Iraqi prime minister formed an armed force known as Dijla Operations Command and deployed it to Diyala, Kirkuk, and Salahuddin, the disputed provinces claimed by both the KRG and Baghdad. Baghdad says Dijla fights terrorism in the territories, but the KRG argues that the force paves the way for the central government to gain control over the areas. The KRG has deployed its Peshmerga troops to the disputed areas.

Press TV has conducted an interview with Mohammad Yousef, a political analyst in Kirkuk, to further discuss the issue. The video also offers the opinions of two additional guests: Zayd al-Isa, a Middle East expert in London and Othman Ali who is a professor at Arbil University. What follows is an approximate transcript of the interview.

Press TV: Let’s first start with the deal that we are hearing has been reached between Nuri al-Maliki and Massoud Barzani with the mediation of Jalal Talabani. They say it is a roadmap to ease tension. Both sides are going to withdraw forces from disputed areas and local committees are going to take care of security. Is this deal going to work?

Yousef: Good evening. First of all, there are a lot of things we have to put on the table before we talk about this conflict between the Iraqi government and Arbil’s government. One of them is what leads them to be in this problem. There were a lot of things before that led them, a lot of things that they did not agree on.

The last visit of Nuri al-Maliki to Kirkuk led him to see that the Arab people in Kirkuk are suffering from having no rule in this province. That is why they called for the Iraqi government to put their feet on the field and do something for them. The popular opinion in Kirkuk is against the war and the both sides, when they accepted Jalal Talabani the president of Iraq’s suggestion, that means they were even the political people or the Iraqi political [population] they were against war.

That is why they are now in a military restraint and they have stopped all the media escalation and they are trying to solve the problem without starting the war between the both sides.

But now nobody, no other side from the Iraqi government and the Kurdish government has moved their forces and their army from the ground.

Press TV: Referring to that visit by Massoud Barzani to Kirkuk that happened on December 10, our guest there in London [Zayd al-Isa] is saying that that visit was very provocative and shows that Barzani is not prepared to discuss the issue of the disputed lands and it was even described by Baghdad authorities as a war visit. Would you describe it as such?

Yousef: I can tell you that the situation in Kirkuk is very difficult. But we have to know that the war is not in anybody’s side. Everybody in Kirkuk, everybody even the people that have gained a lot of things in Kirkuk are against the war.

I can just tell you that the Arab people in Kirkuk are supporting the decision of Baghdad to put the Dijla forces in Kirkuk but at the same time, they are against the war; they are against this way to get their rights in Kirkuk, even the Kurdish people do not want to lose what they gained before 2003 till now but at the same time, they do not want it to be through the rule.

The Turkmen are being seen as the only loser if this war went by any side because that is why they are supporting the opinion of the president of Iraq. That is why they want to build a force from the people that are living in that area.

And I want to just tell you one thing. The problem of Dijla Operation is not just about Kirkuk. There are a lot of other areas in Iraq that suffer from the conflicted area. That is why this war will not solve all the problems that the Iraqi people suffer from and that is how we see they obeyed the suggestion of the president of Iraq right away because they need to talk.

Press TV: Do you think that the fact that the Peshmerga forces did venture to come out of the borders that we defined earlier and the fact that a lot of people are saying that Kurdistan region is becoming more and more like a state is what is really causing serious concern for the Baghdad government?

Yousef: I think when they called it like a war, at the end, they will go and sit at the dialogue table and that is why now they are negotiating with Baghdad and Baghdad is negotiating with Kurdistan because they want to solve the problem without going on a war. That is the big problem that will open a lot of doors to the two governments that [are in conflict] since 2003 till now.

They do not want to go through that way. We are living in Kirkuk; we see that nobody is on the street that wants to talk on this thing or aggravate the street to start the war. Everybody wants to put war away themselves this way.

Press TV: Who do you think is obstructing the process of dialogue?

Yousef: As I told you, the dialogue is very important in this time because as your guests said, the conflict is too complicated or the problem is too complicated but we are native in Kirkuk besides I am a political watcher but I see, as a native in Kirkuk, the problem tends to be solved politically because the both sides obeyed the suggestions of the president.

But now if you see that the Kurds or the leader of the Kurds want to defend anybody, they will defend the rights of the Kurds in these areas and the Iraqi government said that it defends the rights of their people in the area. But who will lose if the war starts? In Kirkuk, the whole people will lose a lot of things if the war starts.

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