The Kurdish Globe
Interview by Rebin Hassan
In an interview with the Kurdish Globe, Saadi Ahmed Pira, member of the politbureau of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Head of the 3rd Committee of the party in Erbil, discusses developments in Iraq and argues that Maliki's visit to Kirkuk was only to upset the Kurds.
Below is the transcript of the interview with Saadi Pira:
Globe: Problems in Iraq have now reached the peak, how can these issues be resolved?
Pira: Today's problems in Iraq can be solved by rebuilding the country. Rebuilding Iraq means rebuilding its people and tolerance. For a long time, the Iraqi citizens had forgotten about their democratic, national and even citizenship rights under the successive regimes. The majority of the Iraqi citizens including Kurds and Shiites had been considered as second degree citizens.
In the restructuring of the new Iraq people had a hope in the constitution that the Iraqis have voted for. The constitution has been drafted in a way that solves the issues in the country.
From the beginning of the establishment of the Iraqi state, we have always been overlooked; have always been looked as a work force. Kurds have never been considered as part of the Iraqi nation who can participate in the decision-making process, even if the decision is related to him and it has always been imposed on him.
Kurds have always expressed complaints about this but the reaction by the central government has always been to resort to war and use of force. Now this era has passed and the Kurds along with the other Iraqi forces including the Shiites have had its role in overthrowing the Baathist Regime and restructuring the Iraqi state. The points of disagreement between the Kurdistan Region and the previous governments have included the areas now covered by the Article 140. All of these have been addressed by the constitution, which has also set the solutions for all the other issues in the country such as the oil and gas issue, national budget and the Peshmerga forces, the forces that have protected not only the Kurds and the Kurdish region but also other Iraqi oppositions. It has been a national and political force institutionalized by the constitution. We cannot mix the accumulated issues between Erbil and Baghdad with the issues between the Shiites and Sunnis. Whoever wants to mix between these two issues, is trying to overpass and hide the Kurdish issues.
We are partners with the parties ruling the country at the present time both in the governance of Iraq and the region according to the constitution. Hence changing the issues and labeling them as personal problems is a way to escape from implementing the constitution and the rightful demands of the Kurdish people that have been discussed long ago. These been submitted to the Iraqi government in writing, and a political delegation from the Kurdistan Region has visited Baghdad and submitted the demands within 19 articles. These need to be implemented.
Even if we have problems and disagreements and tensions arise, we need to understand that resolving the issues inside the country and between Erbil and Baghdad cannot be solved through the media, but rather through dialogue and accurate implementation of the constitution as the only solutions. Otherwise the Kurdish nation will not stay quiet and just watch the situations. Recently many claimed that the issue is between the Kurdistan President and the Iraqi Premier. This is a big mistake. Kurdistan President is responsible to follow up the demands of the Region's citizens, wherever they are, and this is absolutely not a personal issue.
Globe: It is claimed that you have different ideas with the KDP regarding the current issues in Iraq and do not share the same stand?
Pira: This is another big mistake. If this is taken from the opinions of the Kurdistan President and the Iraqi President, this is a political misunderstanding, because although it is true that they are leading the two major parties in this region, they have two constitutional positions in Iraq. The Iraqi President must have opinions of the president of the county, while the region's president should have statements and demands as the president of the Kurdish Region. Whoever doesn't understand this mechanism and wants to talk about this issue without considering the constitutional positions of both, it means that he does not live in this country and only wants to create problems. Otherwise whoever says that the KDP and PUK have different stances in regard the Kurdish citizens' demands is mistaken. As two different parties, we have some different opinions about some issues, but regarding any such key issues, we have no differences in opinion.
Globe: Do you think that the central government misuses power?
Pira: We haven't given them the authority to govern the country unilaterally, but we need to solve the issues together. Today Kurds should not imagine that they are stuck in the mountains and should wait for a helping hand from Baghdad. Whatever problems exist in Iraq, we consider it as our own. This is partnership, otherwise why Kurdistan President was working so hard to form the Iraqi government. We do not have any problem, but we look at Iraq's problems as our own problem.
Globe: Kurdish unity is more necessary than ever, but it is felt that this unity is missing.
Pira: Kurds are very determined about these issues. They have disagreements and problems about the internal issues such as power and opposition, but what we have in common is a national and ethnic ceiling for the demands of the Kurdistan's citizens, for which we share the same position. This statement is not only out of pride, but there is such an agreement on the top levels of all the parties. We are in one frontier regarding the threats on the Kurdistan Region.
Globe: How do you evaluate Maliki's visit to Kirkuk?
Pira: If the visit was in a normal situation, it was very ordinary. Maliki can visit and arrange meeting in Erbil, Suleimaniya, Duhok and any other city in Iraq, but if I were him I would postpone this meeting. If he made the visit one week later, it would have still been very normal. His visit created a lot of reactions and criticism, and it was in fact not natural. Why he brought an army unit, tanks and air force with him to Kirkuk. This means that Maliki does not trust the security forces in the city. And in principle his visit was to upset the Kurds. It was of no use. He could only create a conflict with the Iraqiya List.
Globe: Are Maliki's actions constitutional?
Pira: By using his disagreements with the Iraqiya List, he has succeeded to control the majority of the power centers. And he has misused his authorities and has failed to keep balance among the institutions. He has assigned many of the Division Leaders without returning to the parliament and the President. Hence Kurds have the right to doubt the unilateralism that Maliki is doing today. Hence the issue of power-sharing should be reformatted in Iraq and a timeframe should be set for the implementation of the demands of the Kurds, otherwise Kurds would be forced to start working on the issue of withdrawing support from Maliki's government.