Saturday, 01 October 2011, 08:34 GMT
Voices rise against Kurdish demands

The Globe

Political tensions continue between Erbil and Baghdad

Government and many Iraqi political parties revealed last week their stances on suspended issues Kurds want to see finalized. Officials close to government welcomed new negotiations while other parties pressured the government to "ignore" Kurdish demands.

Resolving issues between Erbil and Baghdad tops political talks in Iraq as the Kurdistan Regional Government plans for a decisive visit to find out the Iraqi government's view on fulfilling Kurdish demands, mainly concerning the disputed areas, the status of federalism, commitment to the Constitution and the country's gas and oil legislation.

A recent reaction came up from Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shiite cleric leading the Sadr bloc, which has 40 seats in the Iraqi Parliament. Al-Sadr, in a letter published on Sept. 27, replied to a fellow leader on the Kurdish request to incorporate some of the disputed areas into Kurdistan Region.

"The pace of provocation," Sadr said, has been raised by some powerful Kurdish leaders and parties. Some of these provocations are [played] in Kirkuk or with the demand for annexing Khanaqin and Sadiya to Kurdistan Region," said the Shiite leader, accusing Kurds of exploiting the circumstances when tensions rise between the two majority Iraqi political groups of State of Law led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Al-Iraqiya, led by Iyad Allawi or when the deadline for U.S. troop withdrawal nears.

"This is what we have been warning about that federalism will bring about issues with consequences that are not good," added Sadr, referring to the federal entity of Kurdistan Region.

On the other hand, some Arab MPs representing provinces with disputed areas spoke of their doubt whether there are "secret agreements" for compromising over Kirkuk by Allawi in favor of the Kurds.

"We are representatives from Kirkuk, Ninewa, Diyala and Salahaddin, and demand uncovering all the secret agreements have been signed between Baghdad and Erbil governments and what has been declared without clarity until now must be explained and discussed in the Parliament," said Omer al-Juburi, an MP from Al-Iraqiya party, in a press conference on Sept. 26.

Al-Juburi denied MPs have seen any of the secret deals containing compromises on the Kirkuk issue; but their doubt comes as "leaders of the Al-Iraqiya party have kept silent about statements by leaders from the Kurdistan Coalition on the future of Kirkuk, politically and constitutionally."

This doubt was first raised by members of local councils in Kirkuk who threatened to withhold support for the Al-Iraqiya party and switch to Maliki's State of Law on these issues.

This statement was the first of its kind trying to merge two of major key problems in Iraq; one is a political dilemma among the ruling parties particularly between Maliki's and Alawi's parties. The other is the long-running constitutional issue of Kirkuk.

Tensions between Maliki and Allawi date to the parliamentary elections in March 2010. Based on the Erbil Agreement initiated by Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani in September 2010, Maliki formed cabinet in return for creating Political Council for High Strategies to be headed by Allawi. This council has not yet been formed and security ministries of Maliki's cabinet are still vacant because of differences between him and Allawi.

Adnan al-Danbus, another member of Al-Iraqiya, denied the accusations from Arab leaders in Kirkuk that Al-Iraqiya's head and leaders are compromising over Kirkuk. He described the statements as political attempts targeting Allawi. He further defended Allawi, noting that he "would never compromise on any national issue, especially when it is a constitutional issue like Kirkuk.? He explained that an article in the constitution deals with issue and would give the final decision.

He also denied rifts in the Al-Iraqiya party, particularly between Allawi and Nujaifi; by saying this, he denied media reports published after a meeting between Nujaifi and Maliki.

Fuad al-Durki, a State of Law MP, also denied there are secret deals or compromises between the political parties. He underestimated of tensions between the Kurdistan Regional and Baghdad governments. The problems between Erbil and Baghdad, he said, are normal and can be solved through dialogue and based on the Constitution.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi Council of Ministers ordered a committee to prepare a detailed report on the procedure of implementing Article 140 of the Constitution for the council to make a decisive decree about, said Dabagh, spokesman of the Iraqi government. This committee includes members from the Committee for Implementing Article 140, the cabinet general secretary, ministries of defense, interior and agriculture, the board property claims and a representative from the KRG.

A high-ranking KRG delegation is expected to visit Baghdad to hear Maliki's government stance on Kurdish questions regulated in a letter of 19 items based on the Kurds allied in the current government. One the controversial items conditions the government to fully implement Article 140 in two years.

Tension between Erbil and Baghdad mounted once again when the Iraqi Council of Ministers passed a draft law for gas and oil in early September. Following that, President Barzani called Kurdish leaders in Baghdad for a meeting in Erbil to make a decision about the Iraqi government's attitude. The meeting concluded with sending a delegation to Baghdad to note the seriousness of the government in meeting Kurdish demands.