Northern Provinces

The Northern provinces include Dahuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah.  The geography of this region is largely mountainous and the provinces border Syria to the west, Turkey to the north and Iran to the east. The three provinces constitute the core of the Kurdish region in Iraq and have a combined population of about 3.5 million inhabitants.  The provincial capitals are Dahuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah.     


Before 1991 the Kurdish region was subject to the heavy hand of the state – most notably in the campaign to “Arabize” Kirkuk in the 1970s and the continuation of these policies in the al-Anfal campaign in the late 1980s.  After the Gulf War, a no fly zone was established above the 36th parallel and the Kurdish Autonomous Region was established in the provinces of Dahuk and Erbil.  After the Iraq War in 2003 the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) was formed in Dahuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah with the city of Erbil as the capital.  The KRG assumed official Iraqi Provincial Control of all three provinces on May 30, 2007.  The KRG also claims parts of Tamim, Ninewah, Diyala and Salah al Din.  A referendum on the status of Kirkuk was to be held by the end of 2007, but has been pushed back.


The U.S. 10th Special Forces Group fought alongside Kurdish peshmerga forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom, first securing Mosul and then moving through Kirkuk to Baghdad.  Since 2003, approximately 100,000 peshmerga have maintained security in the Northern provinces, which have remained the most stable in Iraq.  The peshmerga have been instrumental in fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq, as well as Ansar al Islam.  They also guard the border and protect oil pipelines running through northern Iraq.   


There are lingering tension between the KRG and the Iraqi government in Baghdad regarding the status of the Kirkuk Province and the disputed areas along the Green Line. Several bodies are working to resolve these issues. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) has spent the last two years conducting a study on the disputed areas, the results of which are expected to be released in the spring of 2009. A committee known as the Article 23 Committee was also established to investigate and produce recommendations for the conduct of elections in Kirkuk Province. The Committee's recommendations were due by March 31, 2009; however, that deadline was postponed until later in the spring.


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