Surveying Changes in Northern Iraq

From the moment U.S. forces arrived in Iraq, they found a measure of support in the northern part of the country.

The Kurds -- a non-Arab, Middle Eastern minority who live in the north -- have had a long American connection. Kurds suffered terribly under Saddam Hussein and were thankful when Americans removed him from power.

With little interference, the Kurdish regions have generally flourished -- commerce is booming and salaries have increased. We witnessed a bridge being built in Kirkuk and a college graduation ceremony for journalists in Sulaymaniyah.

But there are some ominous signs, as well, since we last visited the region a year ago.

Arab insurgents have sabotaged oil installations in Kirkuk, the center of the Iraqi oil industry, with increasing frequency. There is also tension throughout the region between Kurds, Arabs and traditional Turkish nomads called Turkomen.

A year ago, Mosul appeared to us to be a success story. But now, some say Kurds and Sunni Arabs won't even cross the Tigris River into each other's neighborhoods. Without the presence of the Iraqi army and with most of the civil service unemployed, thousands of young men now have no work.

Insurgents want Iraqis to blame Americans for the region's problems; we found it too dangerous to do any interviews on the streets.

At a secondary school for girls in Kirkuk, several students were kidnapped in the fall, and they have not returned.

"My mother stands in the door every day," said 17-year-old Rand Ahmed, "waiting for me to come home."

It wasn't this way a year ago.

There are small signs of change, however. We found a park in Sulaymaniyah at the former site of a prison.

"It was," said resident Mohammed Rasheed, "a mass grave, and we thank Bush for helping us get rid of Saddam."

We were encouraged by Garzad Mohammed, an Iraqi whom we met in Kirkuk.

"After the elections," he said, "the mess will settle down."

Kurds will turn out to vote and win more power, he said. He was "a hundred percent sure of it."

Peter Jennings filed this report for "World News Tonight."

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