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The struggle for Kirkuk

Éditeur : Praeger Security International Date & Lieu : 2007, Westport
Préface : Pages : 200
Traduction : ISBN : 0-275-99589-5
Langue : AnglaisFormat : 155x204 mm
Thème : Politique

Table des Matières Introduction Identité PDF
The struggle for Kirkuk

The struggle for Kirkuk

The Rise of Hussein, Oil, and the Death of Tolerance in Iraq

On occasion, when in doubt, I have double-checked dates and details with my childhood friend, Mardig Alexandrian of Munich, who, like me, lived under similar circumstances in Iraq. I am grateful for his input.

The late Gregory Avedikian read the early manuscript, made valuable suggestions, and encouraged me, for which I am grateful. Special thanks to William Straub M.D., who read the entire manuscript from the American reader’s vantage point, and made valuable suggestions. Thanks also go to Brian O’Sullivan, Ph.D., whose input I value. Lisa Tener, an author in her own right, gave valuable advice and encouragement, for which I am grateful. I thank Tim Defaeo, a freelance writer, for educating me about the intricacies of the publishing world, and who advised me to have patience. Special thanks to Tatul Sonentz Papazian, a man of letters, for his unconditional support and encouragement from the outset.


Battles for this largest and the most ancient oil field in Kirkuk, Baba Gurgur, started around WWI, and continue to date. It is generally accepted that WWI was the progenitor of the one that followed, which, in turn was the progenitor of the cold war, which lasted for a half century.

My father’s interest in the news of the WWII, and our exposure to the Allied troops stationed in Kirkuk, evoked my curiosity and captivated my developing mind. The BBC radio channel kept my interest alive.

I was in my early teens when the battle of Stalingrad was waging, and that is my earliest recollection of the war. The Allies, excluding the Soviet Union, had won my heart and mind for their triumphs on the battlefields, as was presented to us by the British propaganda. Winston Churchill became my hero! To have a world leader as a hero may sound strange to an American teenager, whose heroes are Hollywood stars or star athletes, rather than say, Roosevelt; but for Kirkuki, indeed for Iraqi youth, there were no such luminaries to admire, we did not even have national heroes. To us, Churchill and Montgomery were leaders to admire. Ike, Omar Bradley, and General Patten were not; we did not know them, and the United States was not a part of our lives, at that time.

Heroism of the Soviet Union and the sacrifices of its peoples meant little to me! British propaganda had convinced me that Stalin (“Abu-Shwareb” as he was called in Iraq—the “mustachioed man”) was Satan, a tyrant who had killed millions of his people (including thousands of Armenians) in Soviet Armenia and had exiled hundreds of thousands to Siberia.

I also hated the Soviets, because they entered Berlin first. I felt that the honor of striking the last blow to Hitler should have been reserved for the British or the American forces; they deserved the sweet taste of victory. Part of that blame went to Ike, because he relinquished the honor of capturing Berlin to the Soviets, thus establishing a Soviet presence in, what later became, East Germany. This is how I reasoned in my teen years, undoubtedly, heavily influenced by British propaganda. With this mindset, the cold war that followed engaged me in ideological battles with the Leftists, the Communists, and those who opposed the pro-British royal regime within my community.

This book is not a collegiate history book; it is a chronicle of events, which I had witnessed from 1945 until I left Iraq in early 1960s.

To revisit that era is to draw a timeline, which begins with the founding of new Iraq and ends with the demise of the royal regime and the establishment of the Republic of Iraq, the progenitor of Saddam’s Iraq.

The ultimate goal of this book is to familiarize Americans with Iraq, where their sons have now gone, risking their lives to establish democracy and engage in nation building.

Americans cannot afford to remain ignorant! They must know Iraq with all its demographic diversity, culture, social graces, and idiosyncrasies. They must arm themselves with knowledge in order to survive the burdens of occupying an alien land thousands of miles away.

Ordinary Americans are not to blame for this ignorance, for Iraq was not on their screen until a group of people, who had their own agenda for the Middle East, put it there, almost instantaneously. Save for a few, Americans did not even know where Iraq was. When I first came to New York, some forty years ago, a sales lady, detecting my accent, asked me where I was from. I said, “Baghdad!” “Oh! India! India!” she exclaimed, “It must be a very beautiful place!” “What ignorance,” I thought, “don’t these Americans know where Baghdad is? Half their oil comes from there, and they do not know where Baghdad is?” Some weeks later I learned my lesson; while moonlighting at the Bowery project, in Manhattan, I went to a kosher deli and asked for a ham sandwich and a glass of milk. The man looked at me with disgust! “Is this some kind of a joke?” he asked, “Go somewhere else!” I did not know what kosher was! I left the deli, offended!

When I learned about my faux pas, I remembered the sales lady. I too was ignorant, but my ignorance was not my fault. While she had the means to educate herself, I had no such opportunity; my last exposure to the Jewish culture had been when I was fourteen: we were guests at Gurji’s and ‘Aabid’s house for Sukus. Soon after that holiday, the Jewish community of Kirkuk migrated to Israel, and that was the end of my exposure to the Jewish society. It must have been 1949.

Today, while committing 135,000 of our finest boys to occupy Iraq, and despite our successes and failures, our main problem is unfamiliarity with the country and its people. My book, through a series of real life stories, familiarizes the reader with all that makes Iraq a unique challenge for the United States.

This book however, is not a study of current events: Saddam, Bin Laden, 9/11, Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds, Turkomans, Falluja, or Najaf. Rather, it is the story of the demographic diversity of oil rich Kirkuk, the political currents leading to the demise of the Royal regime of Iraq, and the factors leading to the never-ending battles over the oilfields of Baba Gurgur, Kirkuk. It is the story of colonial Britain, Kurds, Turkomans, Assyrians, preemigration Jews, and postgenocidal Armenians, all of whom called Kirkuk home, and lived together in peace, albeit with deepseated animosities. Directly or indirectly, they all were involved in surreptitious battles for control over Baba Gurgur. I was both a witness to, and a victim of, some of the battles during this period.

The book also explores the influences that the British, through the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC), brought about in shaping Kirkuki society, and my civic and political awareness, but not necessarily direction. Their colonial policies resulted in creating and consolidating an opposition, which hated them, and through them, the ruling royal family. It formed the base for future regime change.

The book goes beyond the obvious in detailing the Soviet attempts to gain access to Baba Gurgur through its surrogates, the Communists, and their efforts to recruit the budding youth, including me, to their cause. It tells the story of my incarceration and torture in a death row cell, at the hands of my childhood friend Adnaan Al-Azzawi, an avowed Communist, whose efforts to indoctrinate me into Communism had failed years before.

The demise of the Hashimite Dynasty in Iraq in 1958, which led to the Communist takeover of the country, touched my life personally. My incarceration with the Ba’th leaders in Al-Rasheed Military Base, gave me a special look at their psyche and a negative sense for the future of Iraq, which influenced my decision to leave the country.

The book pursues the psychological effects of the Iraqi defeat in Palestine (1948) on the Iraqi person and the Armed forces. It details the on-the-spot formation of the Iraqi “Free Officers” movement (whose founders later became my prison mates) and who, a decade later, waged a coup against the Hashimite regime. I witnessed the coup from its first hour. I am the only witness to the assassination attempt by Saddam Hussein on Iraq’s “sole leader,” Abdul-Kareem Qasim, organized by the Ba’th Party.

The book describes the colorful daily life that I witnessed, growing up amongst the Turkomans of Kirkuk and the Kurds of Qalah Dize, where I served as a reserve Army officer. It tells stories of human interest involving the Armenians, Kurds, Turkomans, and the Arabs who formed the demographic mosaic of Kirkuk.

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