Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen visited the Iraqi city of Kirkuk today, and cautioned the assorted ethnic factions that they had better settle their differences. “We’re leaving and you’d better figure it out,” Mullen told them.
Kirkuk was the site of two major blasts last month, one which destroyed a Shi’ite mosque and leveled an entire neighborhood of homes, killing 80 civilians, and another blast in a crowded vegetable market, killing 33. Hundreds of civilians were wounded in the attacks.
Prized for its enormous oil industry, Kirkuk has also been at the center of a fight for formal control, being one of several regions outside of Kurdistan which the regional government’s parliament has sought to annex as “provinces.” The effort has sparked protests among Arabs and Turkmen, who see themselves likely to be treated as second class citizens in Kurdistan.