On January 23, 2009, the Kurdish Globe published an article titled “Iraqi army moves closer to Kurdistan”. The very first hand-wringing statement was: “Kurds suspiciously gaze at new army belt in between Kirkuk and Kurdistan provinces”. The article goes on to talk about movements of the Iraqi Army’s 12th Division being alarming and described the movements of elements of Iraqi Army 4th and 12th Divisions as if it was a threat to Kurdistan. The article’s author was apparently unaware that the described activity in the article undermined the claims of a threat.
Some of the unit identifications required some interpretation since the Kurdish Globe’s report used obsolete identifications and nicknames for the brigades. The key points that were emphasized were:
1. 12th Division is doing “suspicious” field operations around Kirkuk. “The movement of the division is not normal and it is a planned agenda; therefore, the Kurdish leadership looks suspiciously at that movement,” said Mustafa Chawrash.
2. The 46th Iraqi Army Brigade (former 9th Strategic Infrastructure Brigade) of the 12th Division, was moved from Kirkuk to Tikrit. The 46th is the best brigade in the 12th Division.
3. The 16th Iraqi Army Brigade (Suleimaniya Brigade) of the 4th Division, was moved from eastern Kirkuk and Sulaymaniyah Provinces to Tikrit.
What is missing is the context of these movements. They are not a threat to Kirkuk or Kurdish areas. They are a redistribution of experienced Iraqi Army units to Salahadin to support the elections. Elections that are not being held in Kirkuk and the Kurdish Provinces.
The 4th Iraqi Army Division previously owned the sector of Salahadin, Kirkuk, and Sulaymaniyah Provinces. Approximately two years ago, it was decided to split the area by transfering the Oil Protection Service’s Strategic Infrastructure Battalions back to the Iraqi Army, retraining them, and forming them into the 12th Division. The 12th was originally to commision a year ago but, delays were caused when assets were transfered to Basrah and then Baghdad to accelerate formation of the 14th Division and then the 11th Division. Since then, two Kurdish Divisions have also started transfering to the Iraqi Army.
With the commisioning of the 12th Iraqi Army Division, the re-organization of that region has started. 4th Iraqi Army Division retains Salahadin provence south and east of Tikrit. 12th Iraqi Army Division gets Salahadin north of Tikrit and Kirkuk. Sulaymaniyah Province is transfered to the custody of the Kurdish forces transfering to the Iraqi Army, reportedly the new 15th Iraqi Army Division.
The movements of the newly commisioned 12th Iraqi Army Division are field training of two under-strength newly commisioned brigades under their new divisional headquarters. Kirkuk (K1) is the location of the training center that the 12th Division headquarters plus the 47th and 48th Brigades commisioned from less than two months ago, on November 30, 2008. Both of those brigades are 30 percent understrength pending the graduation from K1 of their newly retrained 3rd Battalions. After which training of the 12th Division’s 49th Brigade will start. Five of the 12th Division’s 13 battalions still have not finished retraining.
What this means is the Kurdish complaints are about the removal of experienced, competant, full/overstrength, and Kurdish commanded Iraqi Army brigades from Kurdish claimed territory so that they can cover the security for the elections in Salahadin Province. All of the experienced brigades in 4th and 12th Iraqi Army Divisions are now in Salahadin for the elections.
Meanwhile two new, inexperienced, understrength, and not Kurdish commanded Iraqi Army brigades remain to cover Kirkuk under their like-wise green divisional staff. The movements and activities of the 12th Division are the same field training activity expected out of any new units. Kirkuk is not holding elections and is reasonably stable for now. That is why it is used as a training area.
The Kurdish press and politicians claims are nothing more than “crying wolf” over the movements of a newborn puppy learning to walk. It reflects more on the Kurdish paranoia over the new Iraqi Army more than it represents reality.
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