US troops have taken to manning checkpoints in Iraq’s tense Nineveh Province in an attempt to stem the growing threat of violence between the province’s Sunni Arab and Kurdish populations.
Not that the US troops are thrilled with manning checkpoints. Rather, forces loyal to the Arab-dominated provincial government have taken to setting up checkpoints to hassle Kurds, while the Peshmerga set up their own checkpoints in parts of the key city of Mosul.
Tensions in the region have been rising for years. Kurdish politicians dominated the government after the US invasion, and were only supplanted by Arabs in May of last year. Even then, the freshly elected Governor Najafi was blocked by Peshmerga forces from visiting the province’s northeastern towns, with troops reportedly claiming they had “shoot to kill” orders against the governor.
Najafi, who ran a campaign many have described as “anti-Kurd,” has since tried to get the national government to replace the Peshmerga forces with Iraqi troops, to no avail. The US deployment is a last ditch effort to prevent full-on violence.
But even if the US troops manage to calm the situation, long-term questions over the status of Nineveh will remain. Last year the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced its intention to annex parts of Nineveh, including Mosul, into their region. The Peshmerga troops in the region are seen by many as an attempt to maintain their claim over important parts of the oil-rich province.