Iraqi VP warns of ‘civil war’ over Kur­dish-held Kirkuk

The Miracle - - Middle East - By: SUADAD AL-SALHY Source:arab­

BAGH­DAD: Iraqi Vice Pres­i­dent Ayad Allawi on Mon­day warned there could be a “civil war” over the Kur­dish-ad­min­is­tered city of Kirkuk if talks over Kur­dish in­de­pen­dence are left un­re­solved. Allawi, in an in­ter­view with The As­so­ci­ated Press, urged Kur­dish leader Ma­soud Barzani, as well as Iraq’s cen­tral govern­ment and its Ira­nian-backed mili­tias, to show re­straint and re­solve their dis­putes over the oil-rich city. Rul­ing out a mil­i­tary so­lu­tion to the cri­sis, Ihssan Al-Shi­mari, an ad­viser to Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Haidar Al-Abadi, told Arab News: “Talk­ing about a civil war between Kurds and Arabs is an at­tempt to pres­sure both sides — Bagh­dad and Kur­dis­tan — but the re­al­ity on the ground doesn’t in­di­cate any of th­ese ex­pec­ta­tions.” Al-Shi­mari said: “The prime min­is­ter has flatly re­fused to fight Kur­dish ci­ti­zens and still re­lies on con­sti­tu­tional mea­sures, which of­fer a wide range of op­tions to the fed­eral govern­ment to deal with the cri­sis.” He added: “Kirkuk is a dis­puted area, and ac­cord­ing to the con­sti­tu­tion its ad­min­is­tra­tion has to go back to the Iraqi fed­eral gov- ern­ment.” Kirkuk was in­cluded in Iraqi Kur­dis­tan’s in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum last month, even though it falls out­side the au­ton­o­mous Kur­dish re­gion in the coun­try’s north­east. The eth­ni­cally mixed city has been ad­min­is­tered by Kur­dish forces since 2014, when the Iraqi mil­i­tary fled a Daesh ad­vance. The ref­er­en­dum was held de­spite strong ob­jec­tions from Bagh­dad, Ankara and Tehran. Barzani has not yet de­clared in­de­pen­dence. “Iraqis should be left alone to dis­cuss their own problems with­out in­ter­fer­ence,” said Allawi. “Kirkuk has be­come a flash­point.” The head of the Asaib Al-Haq mili­tia, Qais Khaz­ali, on Sun­day warned that the Kurds were plan­ning to claim much of north­ern Iraq, in­clud­ing Kirkuk, for an in­de­pen­dent state, af­ter they voted for in­de­pen­dence in a con­tro­ver­sial but non-bind­ing ref­er­en­dum two weeks ago. He said it would be tan­ta­mount to a “for­eign oc­cu­pa­tion,” re­ported the Afaq TV chan­nel, which is close to the state-sanc­tioned mili­tia. Allawi, a for­mer prime min­is­ter, said any move by the coun­try’s Pop­u­lar Mo­bi­liza­tion Units (PMUs), which in­clude Asaib Al-Haq, to en­ter Kirkuk would “dam­age all pos­si­bil­i­ties for uni­fy­ing Iraq” and open the door to “vi­o­lent con­flict.” He said if the govern­ment con­trols the PMUs, as it claims, it “should re­strain them, rather than go into a kind of civil war.” Allawi also urged the Kur­dish side “not to take ag­gres­sive mea­sures to con­trol th­ese lands.” Mo­hammed Naji, a law­maker and a se­nior leader of Badr — one of the most prom­i­nent Iraqi Shi­ite mili­tias — told Arab News: “It’s early to pick up the last op­tion (con­fronta­tion). The fed­eral govern­ment will use all avail­able mea­sures to con­tain the cri­sis, and us­ing (mil­i­tary) power to im­pose fed­eral author­ity (in Kirkuk) and pre­serve the unity of Iraqi lands and peo­ple will be the last op­tion.” Naji said: “From the be­gin­ning, we’ve said the ref­er­en­dum is un­con­sti­tu­tional. It vi­o­lates the first item of the Iraqi con­sti­tu­tion, and any ac­tion that aims to di­vide Iraq is un­ac­cept­able to all Iraqis.” He added: “Re­solv­ing the prob­lem of Kirkuk and the other dis­puted ar­eas would be ac­cord­ing to the con­sti­tu­tion, and we can go back to talks (with the Kurds) un­der the um­brella of the con­sti­tu­tion.” He con­tin­ued: “We’ve asked both par­ties (Bagh­dad and Irbil) to abide by the con­sti­tu­tion, but if the Kur­dish broth­ers in­sist on their stub­born­ness, this means they want to go with the hard­est op­tion, which is con­fronta­tion.” Al-Abadi de­manded that the Kur­dis­tan Re­gional Govern­ment an­nul the ref­er­en­dum re­sult, and called for joint ad­min­is­tra­tion of Kirkuk. Bagh­dad has closed Iraqi Kur­dis­tan’s airspace to in­ter­na­tional flights. Turkey and Iran have threat­ened puni­tive mea­sures against the Kur­dish re­gion, fear­ing the en­cour­age­ment of sep­a­ratist sen­ti­ment among their own Kur­dish pop­u­la­tions.

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