Iraqi leaders had complained Monday that Turkey had not coordinated with Baghdad before sending dozens of warplanes to bomb Kurdish rebel targets in a larger operation in northern Iraq on Sunday. The target area is in the Kurdish-controlled region north of Kirkuk.
Sunday’s assault was the largest aerial attack in years against the outlawed separatist group. Turkey’s military chief said the strikes used U.S. intelligence, and U.S. officials said Washington was informed of the plan.
Kirkuk is an especially coveted city for both the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government in Baghdad and the Kurdish one in Irbil.
Kurds want to incorporate it into their self-rule area, but the idea has met stiff resistance from Arabs.
Much of Iraq’s vast oil wealth lies under the ground in the region, as well as in the Shiite-controlled south. Apart from the petrodollars, Kurds have a strong cultural and emotional attachment to the area and consider Kirkuk, which they call “the Kurdish Jerusalem,” part of their ancestral homeland.
Rice did not hold a separate meeting with the semiautonomous Kurdish leadership while in Kirkuk. Kurdish leaders have chafed under U.S. demands for greater inclusion in the Baghdad government and swifter work to complete a framework law for managing and distributing Iraq’s oil wealth.
Kurdish leaders also favored a quicker referendum on Kirkuk and resented U.S. pressure this fall to do more to hunt the Kurdish rebels.