The 2007-2008 “surge” is simplistic because it ignores a core reality—one outlined in a paper from the Center last year—that Iraqis remain bitterly divided over key power-sharing questions. One particular flashpoint the United States should use its diplomatic and political leverage on is northern Iraq, where it can encourage political reconciliation between Arabs and Kurds.
The disputed northern provinces of Nineveh, particularly the cities of Mosul and Kirkuk, have experienced a strong upsurge in violence in recent months. Much of the violence is driven by power disputes between Arabs and Kurds over who controls the money, oil resources, territory, and guns.
U.S. diplomats should engage Arab and Kurdish leaders in the disputed northern areas more intensively on these issues. For the past several years, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq has led a process aimed at collecting information and offering a way forward to settle the unresolved questions in Nineveh province, Mosul and Kirkuk. But the U.N. effort lacks the leverage to shape the calculations of Iraq’s different factions. U.S. leaders can step up efforts to come up with a process that helps manage and resolve the conflicts of northern Iraq.
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