By Azad Amin
Tense diplomatic engagements between Kurdish and Arab political leaders of Iraq with regards to the ongoing crisis seemingly indicate the end of Prime Minister Al-Maliki rule. The process of withdrawing confidence from Maliki has begun and it is very likely that Maliki will not see to the end of this summer in the hot-seat.
A successful and smooth withdrawal of Maliki from his post can certainly be considered as a triumph for Kurdistan President, Massoud Barzani who played the leading role in removing Maliki and formed the most outspoken opposition against him.
However, the question is not whether Maliki is to be removed or not but what sorts of political reforms and formations will take place in the post-Maliki era in order to resolve the ongoing Iraqi internal problems, particularly the bitter disputes between Baghdad and Erbil.
This editorial claims that the disputes between the capitals cannot be resolved by changing premiers or by making new alliances. The core point of contention and difference between both parties is about sovereignty and the entitlement to sovereignty. There are two aspects that have to be considered closely in relation to the problems between Kurdistan Region and Iraq.
The first point is that Iraq was established as a political entity based on a nation-state. In other words those who structured Iraq according their imperial interests at the time assumed that a national Iraq identity could emerge within the arbitrarily drawn borders. This has never materialized. Contrary to the emergent of an Iraqi nation, Iraq witnessed disunity and conflict of nations within its borders.
Not only did Iraq fail to assimilate the various ethnic identities within the pot of a singular Iraqi nation, Iraq failed to even reconcile denominational differences within its constituencies. From the precedent set by the British imperial government to King Faisal's rule, Iraq accumulated its experience of an iron-handed rule that served to dominate others. The fact that he was an Arab Sunni king with the assistance of British forces, Faisal did not have any other option but to apply repressive and military rule to exert his sovereignty.
It is not coincidence that since the formation of Iraq, there has always been a Kurdish conflict and war between Baghdad and Kurdistan. This repressive character of Iraq unfortunately did not alter with the collapse of Saddam's regime in 2003. In place of the Sunnis, the Shiite Arabs now want to run Iraq and become the patron of what is still an arbitrary state. What Maliki does is in fact only the continuation and preservation of Iraqi political structure with a new colour. The main tenet of this political make-up is to assume exclusive sovereignty not share it.
The second point is that the new Iraqi constitution which inscribed federalism remained only in words and not in practice. Iraq is not a federal country and can never be such. It was a temporary solution in the immediate post-Saddam period to contain the strong position that the Kurds gained. Federalism was marked into the constitution solely to appease Kurdish demands.
Neither the Arab political actors nor the US had the luxury to exclude the Kurds from the Iraqi politics at that transitional period. Despite all the clear wordings of the constitution, almost all the articles that govern the federal relations between Baghdad and Erbil have not implemented. The dispute over the oil and gas sharing or the Hydro-Carbon law is the most significant case that demonstrates the lack of intention of Baghdad to recognize either the federal structure or share sovereignty with the Kurds. By refusing to allow the KRG to control its natural resources, Iraqi actors send a clear message that Baghdad is the sole and only sovereign power in the country.
The crucial question is this: is Iraq able to radically change this old political characteristic in order to accommodate the various national and denominational groups within a plural democratic and federal political structure?
The Kurdish political actor's response to this simple question since the fall of Saddam has always been positive. It is this positive approach that prompted the Kurds to restructure a so-called new Iraq. The great efforts of Kurdistan President to remove Maliki and eradicate the dictatorial tendencies in Baghdad indicate that the Kurds still believe that Iraq can change. This positive perception of Iraq's political future is a waste of time and energy. The Kurdish leaders have been throwing away time and energy in this endeavour since 2003 to create a new Iraq. It is very unlikely that any new premier who replaces Maliki can really be better than him.
This brings us to a strategic point: a real solution to Iraq is realizable only through dismemberment of Iraq into its granular components. Old political structures of the Middle East that was established according to the imperialist interests following the First World War can no longer be sustainable. The regional political and social unrest, combined with a new global hegemonic struggle, will one way or another reconstruct a new Middle East. In this new reconstruction it is very probable that the Middle East may follow the footsteps of the Balkan region. Balkanization of the Middle East refers to formations of new political entities and new borders. An independent Kurdistan thus is not a far-fetched possibility but to the contrary will be an essential component of a new Middle East.
This however should not misguide the Kurdish political elites into believing that there will be a plethora of readily available states to support an independent Kurdistan. The fact is that there is not a single sovereign state that can support the Kurds to establish their own state. Some argue that newly discovered masses of natural resources in Kurdistan can be a significant factor towards independence. The rich natural resources of Kurdistan were a precursor for the division of Kurdistan at the turn of the 20th century, and there is no indicator this time around that it can be a contributing factor to freedom rather than another curse.
Constituting the third largest ethnic group in the Middle East with a considerable size of territory, it is at the hands of the Kurds to decide their own destiny and nobody else. Regional powers including Turkey, aim to contain the Kurdish national liberation movement at such a critical and chaotic period. The Kurdish political elite and the intelligentsia should understand that Turkey's close relation with KRG does not mean that Turkey will recognize Kurdistan Region's independence.
Turkey's main intention by developing good relations with KRG is to balance Iran's influence in Iraq and to weaken Maliki's government. For Kurds not to separate from Iraq, regional and international powers must give up on Maliki. Their main intention is to contain the Kurds within the framework of existing political borders until a new Middle East reconstructed.
The Kurds can solely rely on their own resources. It is time for the Kurds to strategically consider independence. Rather than wasting times and energies with unfruitful ends, it is time for the Kurds to spend their times and energies for better and higher prospects.
The first sign of such series of strategic moves can be seen over the issue of Syrian Kurdistan. Today the most crucial and strategic concern for the Kurds in the whole Kurdistan is the unfolding events in Syria and Syrian Kurdistan. Independence for Kurdistan will go through the freedom of Syrian Kurdistan. KRG and all political parties in the four parts of Kurdistan should concentrate their efforts on Syrian Kurdistan. Any failure in Syrian Kurdistan will be detrimental to the Kurdish national interests than Maliki could ever be.