Tuesday, 23 October 2012, 06:12 GMT
Cleaning polluted political waters in Iraq when streams are rising


Top Kurdish delegation landing in Baghdad Airport. October 21, 2012./PRESS PHOTO

The Kurdish Globe
By Bashdar Pusho Ismaeel

The Kurds prepare to send yet another delegation to Baghdad but can the same formula produce a different answer?

The political forces in the Kurdistan Region are preparing to send a delegation ahead of Eid Ad'ha to Baghdad, hailed as a "final attempt" to solving the crisis.

The delegation, which was intended to represent a cross-spectrum of Kurdish political voices, is charged with reaffirming the Region's adherence to the constitution and former deals concluded but also on the other hand to warn the government over its damaging monopolisation policies.

Kurdish political forces have agreed to take a united stand should attempts to find a solution prove futile.

While looking for factors to remain hopeful or positive, it is difficult to overlook the fact that such delegations, negotiations and attempts at reconciliation are hardly new.

Furthermore, they come at a time when a Kurdish olive branch has been severely burned by brazen and worrying statements from a leader of the State of Law Coalition, Yassin Majeed, who attacked Kurdistan President Massaud Barzani as a "a real danger to Iraq's economy and national security" just as the Kurds were preparing their reach out.

While the statement from Majeed may not be reflective of the overall view of the State of Law Coalition, it severely derails any positive motions that are initiated and makes the bridge towards reconciliation and understanding all the more slippery.

Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, severely reprimanded Majeed for his statements, deeming them as a "call to war". Talabani blasted Majeed's "provocative" and "reckless" statements at a time when the Kurdish government was working to send a delegation to reignite dialogue with the National Iraqi Alliance (NIA) and other groups.

The Kurdistan Alliance (KA) also hit back at Majeed saying his stance was designed to cover the failures of the government, and as Barzani is against the onset of a totalatarian regime spurred towards sectarianism and the corruption that is rife in Baghdad.

The problem is Majeed's stance is unlikely to be an isolated view and too often dialogue has proved fruitless and met with insincere ears. Nouri al-Maliki is the real danger in Iraq and his centralisation tendencies have too often been masked under narrow political or security pretexts.

All of the problems that grip Iraq today including issues between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Baghdad have been discussed before with agreed mechanisms for their resolution.

The problem in Iraq is not finding agreements amongst parties but the implementation of such agreements. The Iraqi constitution already lays the groundwork for the resolution of disputed territories, oil sharing, federal powers and the distribution of the federal budget. The Erbil Agreement and the 19 points that underpinned the agreement that formed a key precondition for the formation of the current coalition and broke the unprecedented political stalemate, already make the terms and basis for political partnership clear.

Why does an already settled and accepted Iraqi constitution or clear political basis for partnership need to be revised or restudied, How many more agreements need to be formed for a solution to the current differences or discrepancies to be adopted,

The issue is not striking agreement but the stomach and genuine intent to fulfilling the terms of such agreements. Until such a time, dozens more agreements will not be worth the paper they are written on.

This makes the Kurdish position all the more precarious. From the Transitive Administrative Law (TAL), the Iraqi constitution, to the Erbil agreement, they have watched as successive Baghdad governments and particularly Maliki have paid lip service to honouring such legally binding covenants.

The Kurdish leadership have emphasised that should the latest Kurdish delegation fail to yield solutions with the Baghdad government this time round, they will take a "united stand". However, the manner of such a stance was not clear and ambiguities of reprisals in the face of broken Baghdad promises have hurt the Kurds on countless occasions before.

Any responses or actions by Kurds should they deem negotiations a failure should be met with definitive action. Conversely, if any agreements are struck, these should be measured by clear timetables and a join committee to monitor the implementation of the terms of agreement. What good is any political concord, such as the Erbil Agreement, if a little over a year to new national elections, the terms are not implemented,

Both internal developments as well as growing regional shifts and crises that are drastically changing the political and strategic outlook of the Middle East is pushing Iraq further apart with the stance of various factions becoming more engrained. Iraq does not have a coherent and commonly accepted domestic vision or strategy yet alone a national foreign policy and divisions are becoming more paramount.

While Iraq threatens Turkey as relations have nose-dived, the Kurds are growing ever closer to an economic and political alliance with Ankara. As the Kurds, favour an overthrow of Assad and have helped their ethnic brethren, Baghdad sought to the secure the Syrian border to avert any steps against the regime.

Baghdad remains ever weary of looking too far west by striking a new alliance with Russia and strengthening its ties with Shiite regimes in Damascus and Tehran. Sunnis remain wary of Shiite domination and naturally look towards their Sunni neighbours.

All in all, resolutions on Kirkuk, disputed territories and oil sharing become even more difficult to resolve.

Just this week, Exxon-Mobil was mooted to sell its interests in the West-Qurna field in Southern Iraq, seemingly removing itself from the political chaos between Baghdad and Erbil. Exxon was affectively asked to take sides and it is appearing to do so in favour of lucrative returns in Kurdistan.

More than ever, Kurdistan and Iraq are two distinct and distant entities and the policies of Baghdad and Maliki should assume a lion's share of the blame.

Maliki continues to act as a Shiite leader rather than a leader of Iraq and recent arms purchases raises doubts on whose security Maliki is trying to boost.

Iraq national budget in 2013 is set to be a record, but where are the billions of dollars been spent as Iraqis continue suffer from a lack of services and infrastructure. While Iraqi oil and defence budgets dramatically grow, Kurdistan is asked to cater for all its expenses, including defence forces which should fall under the national budget, out of its own portion of the budget.

Baghdad has set aside billons to develop oil field further south, but criticises the Kurds for any moves to bolster its oil industry.

Kurdish leaders have emphasised their adherence to the constitution and have warned repeatedly that they will not accept violations or neglect of constitutional principles. This is the same message that the Kurdish delegation will convey once more and it is time to show whether these warnings are just empty rhetoric or the basis of real intent.