5. Turkomen Offer Buffer Belt between Tikrit and Kirkuk

A map with written material was recently delivered to the administration in Washington with an offer from Iraq’s Turkeman community to create a long thin belt under their control which would act as a buffer between the Kurds of the north and the Sunnis of central Iraq.

They suggest that their region would counterbalance the autonomous enclaves taking shape in the country at a pace accelerated by the latest round of hostilities.

The other advantage the Turkemen offer is that, uniquely, of all the Iraqi groups, they are non-Arab and predominantly Sunni Muslim with a substantial Shiite Muslim minority.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources, who have seen the Turkeman package, describe their domain as a strip 50 km wide at its broadest point running from the Syrian border in the west and ending at the Iranian border in the east. (See debkafile Special Map)

Since the strip passes between Tikrit and Kirkuk, the Turkeman are ideally placed to defend Kirkuk’s oil fields from dangers coming from the south.

Included in the Turkemen offer is a pledge of equal standing in government and security forces for the Assyrian Christians.

The key item of the proposal pertains to the final status of Kirkuk as a city shared among Turkemen, Kurds and Arab tribes in the vicinity. The Turkemen calculate that those tribes, cut off as they are from the Sunnis of central Iraq and isolated inside Jalal Talabani’s Kurdish enclave, will prefer to throw in their lot in with the Turkemen rather than live under Kurdish rule.

The heads of the national security council in Washington, while studying the details of the Turkeman proposal, are conscious of two detrimental factors that are not covered in the package. One is that Mogtada Sadr was helped by Turkeman Shiites to insinuate his militiamen into Ar Ramadi to attack the Americans at the outset of his uprising.

The other is the recent arrival of Turkmenistani agents from Central Asia which only aggravates the deep concern in the US military command in the region over the penetration of al Qaeda operatives from that former Soviet republic. An influx of Osama bin Laden’s terrorists under cover of visitors from Turkmenistan is one headache the American command in Iraq can live without.

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