The Kurdish Sun Rises
The current turmoil engulfing the government of Iraq has put on full display the political might and critical influence of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq. Frequently shying away from the politics of Baghdad they have in recent days had taken a more proactive, and some would say partisan role, in attempting to resolve and unify the feuding national political blocs while still maintaining autonomy.
The KRG has been pressing for a diplomatic solution to the recent crisis between the D’awa party of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and the al-Iraqiya party of Ayad Allawi, which is currently locked in a boycott of parliament. Since the final days of the United States troop withdrawal, the two major parties have been trading insults and accusations. The tension culminated with an arrest warrant charging the vice-president, and al-Iraqiya party member, Tariq al-Hashemi, with acts of terrorism against political adversaries, and grew more desperate when 16 explosions ripped through Baghdad this week in one of the deadliest and more orchestrated attacks of the year.
While the central government seems to be dissolving, and a rift threatening to inflame sectarian and regional alliances is rearing its head once more in Iraq, the stable hand of the Kurdistan Regional Government seems to be siding with the al-Iraqiya camp and contributing to the national crisis. Al-Hashemi has found political allies and safe haven in the north, where he has fled.
Recent statements by KRG officials are telling in that they refute the directives from the central government in Baghdad and even balk at the institutions of the Maliki government. The Kurdistan Regional President, Massoud Barzani, has refused Maliki’s demands to hand over al-Hashemi and declared, “there is no way we would hand over al-Hashemi to Baghdad. He is our guest.” Fayaq Tofiq, deputy minister of the Interior in the KRG, added more fuel to the political fire when he stated that the KRG would not obey decisions of Iraqi courts unless a specific ruling is affirmed by KRG courts.
Barzani affirmed that Iraqis and Kurds “must not under estimate or tolerate terrorism,” but he also added, “security forces should not be used for political objectives,” a statement which seems to be directed to the Mailki government and the D’awa party.
The State of Law Coalition in the Iraqi Council of Representatives (COR) and other Sh’ia groups are frustrated by the Kurdish position. Ehsan Awadi, a leader in the coalition, equated the reluctance of the KRG to hand over al-Hashemi to a “crime,” demanding that “al-Hashemi should stand trial in Baghdad.” Overall the political tenor in Iraq seems to have reached a peak, and now that Kurdistan appears to be playing partisan politics, a rift could plunge Iraq into talk of federalism again.
Some Kurdish political analysts are also dissatisfied with the region’s involvement, suggesting that Kurdistan should maintain neutrality in the political conflict. Arif Qurbani, a political analyst in Sulymania, said “we (Kurds) should monitor the situation in Iraq, instead of direct involvement or intervention, and we have to strive to obtain our demands during chaotic situations.”
Shwan Mohammed Taha, Kurdish MP in the COR’s Security and Defense Committee said the premonition of Kurdish leaders has come true and that, “tensions between Iraqis will grow more in the aftermath of American withdrawal.” Taha estimates that “if there were no Kurds, the situation of Iraq would worsen.” Therefore, Kurd should play its role “in balancing the situation,” Taha added.
Some political parties have suggested dissolving the current Iraqi government and forming a new government based on a majority. Barzani in his statement called for “an urgent national conference to avoid a collapse of the political process.” It is expected that the KRG will continue to play a central role in any political reconciliation, which may gain them some leverage in the future when issues like the region’s budget, oil revenue, Kirkuk and disputed areas are contested at the national level. Koshan Ali Khidhir is a journalist, blogger, and student at the University of Kurdistan-Hawler. He has written articles for Global Politician, American Chronicle, Middle East Online, Mideast Youth and others. His blog can be read at: koshanali.blogspot.com