Kirkuk governor: 'The real security fight begins after IS'
Speaking at the "CWC Kurdistan-Iraq Oil & Gas Conference" in London on Monday, Najmaldin Karim warned that a "dangerous Islamist administration" was being ignored in Hawija and spoke of possible in-fighting between Shia militias.
"The biggest problem of course is what comes after IS," said Karim.
"I think once IS is ousted from Mosul, Hawija or wherever, problems between Shia political parties will begin. These are between factions which already exist."
|"Hawija is the nerve centre for the Islamists – they still exist in Iraq"
- Najmaldin Karim
The governor warned that a "nerve-centre" for Islamist terrorists and "senior Baath operatives" was being ignored in the town of Hawija and that this would become the new centre for terrorist activities following the fall of IS.
"I don't know why the coalition has focused on Mosul and chosen to ignore a real threat in Hawija," he said.
"Hawija is the nerve centre for the Islamists - they still exist in Iraq - and these organisations will restart terrorist organisations like they did before [IS] ever came there," he said.
Hawija is located 30 miles west of Mosul and is considered a major stronghold for IS. A recent article by the Washington Institute called it the "second most important city to IS after Raqqa".
The almost exclusively Sunni town was dubbed "the Anbar of the north" by US troops owing to its fierce opposition to occuption.
It soon developed into a base for Sunni-extremist insurgent groups and witnessed some of the first uprisings against the Baghdad government in 2014, which led to IS sweeping through northern Iraq.
When approached for comment on his speech, Karim told reporters that it would still be possible to keep Iraq’s various states together, but only under a federal system where central government listened more to its governors.
Kirkuk, which owns one of the largest oil-fields in Iraq, is looking to potentially join a new Kurdistan government, should it successfully secede from Baghdad.
Karim played down any concerns over conflict should Baghdad not agree to "Kirkuk's decision to join Erbil", emphasising the importance of negotiations in the future of the city.
But with Kirkuk having an Arab-majority there will be fierce opposition from the Iraqi government and locals to Kurdish annexation of the city.
The fact that Kirkuk occupies an area rich in oil is also a contentious issue for Iraq and Kurdish relations.
"If it's to do with oil, we can always try and reach a deal that benefits both sides, but let's get rid of IS first," he said.
Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said his government was considering pushing for independence from Baghdad on Sunday.
Karim also spoke about the ongoing dispute with Baghdad over oil revenues.
The Kurdish government has complained about a lack of funds coming in from oil revenues, despite Kirkuk historically being one of the largest oil producers in Iraq.
"Kirkuk has not received any petro-dollars from Baghdad since 2014," Karim said.
"The Baghdad government does not abide by the constitution, especially when it comes to cooperation between states or the equitable distribution of funds with everyone involved.
He said also believes that the Kurdish regional government has lost out in billions of dollars.