KIRKUK, Iraq, March 29 (UPI) -- Ethnic rivalries in Iraq's semi-autonomous northern region are being cited by those who back a continued U.S. military presence, political observers say.
The greatest unfinished chapter of America's war in Iraq may well be the status of the divided city of Kirkuk, home to Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens, The New York Times reported.
Each group makes historical claims to the land and the oil beneath it.
Last week it took the deployment of U.S. troops to prevent a confrontation after Kurdish soldiers from the north took positions on the outskirts of Kirkuk's Arab neighborhoods.
If the Americans leave "anything can happen," said Hassan Toran, a Turkmens member of Kirkuk's council.
On Monday a rock-throwing brawl broke out between Kurds and Turkmens at a technical university in Kirkuk.
Insurgent attacks on Kirkuk's streets are still frequent, the Times reported.
Recently a car packed with explosives detonated outside a hospital, killing a young mother and her baby girl.
A book written by six Iraq experts, led by Kenneth M. Pollack of the Brookings Institution, called peacekeeping in Kirkuk "by far the most important U.S. military mission now."