SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

June 20, 2014

Kurds emerge as winners in Iraq chaos

MULA ABDULA, Iraq (AP) — Among rolling wheat fields with machine-gun fire rattling in the distance, Kurdish fighters patrol the new frontier of their autonomous region of northern Iraq, dozens of miles from their official border. In front of them are Islamic militants; behind them is the Kurds’ newly captured prize, stretches of oil-rich territory.

In Iraq’s chaos, the Kurds are emerging as significant winners — and their victories are fueling sentiment among their population to declare outright independence.

As Sunni insurgents swept over a large chunk of northern Iraq and barreled toward Baghdad the past two weeks, Kurdish fighters known as peshmerga seized territory of their own, effectively expanding the Kurdish-run region into areas it has long claimed. Most notably, they grabbed the oil center of Kirkuk. And in contrast to the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, which is in turmoil, the Kurds are growing more confident, vowing to increase oil sales independent of the central government.

The gains have also brought the Kurds challenges barely imaginable just days ago. They must defend a new, 620-mile frontier against Sunni insurgents, led by an al-Qaida breakaway group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Some 300,000 Iraqis who fled the insurgent advance have flooded into Kurdish areas, an extra burden to an already cash-strapped autonomy government.

And the Kurds risk a backlash. In Kirkuk, Sunni Arabs and ethnic Turkmens — who have long opposed Kurdish claims over the city — threaten a revolt if the Kurds don’t share administration of the city and any oil revenues.

Still, the sense of exuberance is palpable among Kurds, who make up 20 percent of Iraq’s mostly Arab population.

“Now that the peshmerga took back our disputed areas, we should have our own country. We deserve it,” said Khaled Ismail in the Kurdish area of Khazer.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Nation/World

Local News
  • Police in helicopters spot marijuana plants in Salem, Peabody PEABODY -- The state police buzzed over Peabody by helicopter this week and spotted marijuana plants growing outside a home on St. Ann's Avenue. A ground unit was alerted and cut down the plants. The operation was part of regular "marijuana eradicati

    August 1, 2014

  • 140801_SN_DLE_BEVDEPOT3.jpg Beverly MBTA garage opens

    Gov. Deval Patrick and Mayor Mike Cahill opened the new MBTA parking garage Friday afternoon with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the roof.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sex offender found in New Hampshire

    The Level 3 sex offender who allegedly cut off his GPS bracelet and absconded after he was spotted with a 16-year-old boy, in violation of his probation in a child rape case, has been arrested in Manchester, New Hampshire.

    August 1, 2014

  • State sets tax holiday BOSTON -- Shoppers will get a holiday from the state sales tax on Aug. 16 and 17, after state lawmakers finally agreed on a weekend. The tax-free holiday has been an annual event since 2004, with the exception of 2009, when the state raised the sales

    August 1, 2014

  • crab Little green invaders threatening local clam flats IPSWICH -- The green crab is eating our lunch. It's been eating its way through Northeastern shellfish for years, and some local experts are worried that the undersized crustacean, about 31/2 to 4 inches across, has reached critical mass. The creatur

    August 1, 2014 2 Photos