“Our de­mands from Bagh­dad have been

In­ter­view with KRG Min­is­ter Falah Mustafa Bakir

The Kurdish Globe - - NATIONAL -

The Kur­dis­tan Re­gion, at a cru­cial junc­ture in its his­tory, is en­joy­ing in­creas­ing strate­gic and eco­nomic promi­nence, grow­ing global in­ter­est and recog­ni­tion as key con­stituents of the new Mid­dle East. At the same time, Kur­dis­tan is fac­ing a num­ber of press­ing is­sues such as a cri­sis of re­la­tions with Bagh­dad and a Syr­ian civil war on its bor­der.

Bash­dar Pusho Is­maeel of the Kur­dish Globe spoke with KRG Min­is­ter Falah Mustafa Bakir, Head of the De­part­ment of For­eign Re­la­tions, on a num­ber of key is­sues.

Kak Falah, thank you very much for your time with the Kur­dish Globe. Let’s start with KRG re­la­tion­ships with Bagh­dad which are at a crit­i­cal stage. What is your view on the cur­rent cri­sis and what is your de­mand from Bagh­dad?

Not only is the cur­rent cri­sis be­tween Bagh­dad and Er­bil at a crit­i­cal stage, in­deed the po­lit­i­cal process as a whole is in a deep and dan­ger­ous cri­sis. Pres­i­dent Ma­soud Barzani has re­called all the Kur­dish MP’s and min­is­ters from Bagh­dad to come to Er­bil for con­sul­ta­tions and dis­cuss the pos­si­ble op­tions that can be taken. This de­ci­sion is not solely due to the bud­get be­ing passed with­out an agree­ment with the Kur­dish MP’s in Bagh­dad. This de­ci­sion is only the lat­est in a string of moves made by the State of the Law bloc and Prime Min­is­ter Ma­liki against the peo­ple of the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion. It is no se­cret that he has opened fronts with not only us but with Iraq’s Sunni Arabs and some of the Iraqi Shi’ite po­lit­i­cal par­ties and the main is­sue which we are all united against is his in­sis­tence of mak­ing de­ci­sions uni­lat­er­ally with no re­spect for the con­sti­tu­tion, power shar­ing prin­ci­ples or agree­ments that he has signed. This will en­dan­ger the demo­cratic process and the im­ple­men­ta­tion of fed­er­al­ism in Iraq.

Our de­mands from Bagh­dad have been hon­est and con­sis­tent and while we have to be part of the process we are not aware and they are not trans­par­ent. Re­gard­ing the bud­get, ev­ery year we are hum­ble and trans­par­ent in our de­mands and yet we are painted as if we have ex­ces­sive de­mands. What type of unity is Mr. Ma­liki try­ing to pro­mote when he does not wish to al­lo­cate funds to the Pesh­merga, who are part of the Iraqi de­fense sys­tem, pro­tect the bor­ders as well as the in­ter­nal se­cu­rity of the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion which by ex­ten­sion means pro­tect­ing Iraq.

In ad­di­tion, the oil and gas is­sues are still an is­sue and it is un­for­tu­nate that in 2013, Mr. Ma­liki still wants the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion to be at the eco­nomic mercy of Bagh­dad. Ac­cord­ing to Ar­ti­cle 117 (3) of Iraq’s con­sti­tu­tion, “Re­gions and gov­er­norates shall be al­lo­cated an eq­ui­table share of the na­tional rev­enues suf­fi­cient to dis­charge its re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and du­ties, but hav­ing re­gard to its re­sources, needs and the per­cent­age of its pop­u­la­tion.” This is why we have gone ahead with our de­ci­sion to work to­wards eco­nomic in­de­pen­dence so that the peo­ple of Kur­dis­tan are no longer at the mercy of one party rule which is sadly the case in Bagh­dad.

Mr. Ma­liki con­trols in ad­di­tion to the army the se­cu­rity ap­pa­ra­tus, the ju­di­ciary and even the in­de­pen­dent in­sti­tu­tions such as the Cen­tral Bank and IHEC have been at­tacked in his at­tempts to bring those closer to his con­trol.

With Di­jla Op­er­a­tions Com­mand es­tab­lished by Ma­liki and sig­ni­fi­ca­tion mo­bil­i­sa­tion of forces on both sides, if the sit­u­a­tion de­te­ri­o­rates any fur­ther, is there a real dan­ger of all-out war be­tween the Kurds and Arabs?

The dan­ger of an all-out war be­tween Er­bil and Bagh­dad is quite re­mote and rest as­sured that if any vi­o­lence were to break out, it would be due to Prime Min­is­ter Ma­liki’s poli­cies and his forces mak­ing the first move. Our Pesh­merga are sta­tioned for de­fen­sive pur­poses be­cause our his­tory has shown that some of Iraq’s in­di­vid­u­als will not hes­i­tate to turn weapons against us in at­tempts to de­flect from their own short­com­ings. Mr. Ma­liki at­tempts to use Di­jla forces and the Iraqi Army not only to threaten our se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity, but to turn pub­lic opin­ion in Iraq against us and to at­tempt to de­flect from his fail­ure to com­bat cor­rup­tion, pro­vide ba­sic ser­vices and bring sta­bil­ity to the rest of Iraq af­ter seven years be­ing in charge. For­tu­nately, the re­gional sit­u­a­tion along with de­vel­op­ments on the ground mean that an in­ter­nal war in 2013 is highly un­likely and Mr. Ma­liki is slowly re­al­iz­ing that ne­go­ti­a­tions, not vi­o­lence are the only way to solve any po­lit­i­cal dis­putes be­tween us and Bagh­dad.

It is now been al­most 10 years, a decade, since the fall of Sad­dam. The Kurds have been pa­tient, but there seems to be no real move­ment on ar­ti­cle 140, a na­tional cen­sus, a na­tional hy­dro­car­bon law, oil ex­port pay­ments etc. When will Kirkuk be re­turned to the Kurds? How pa­tient are the Kurds will­ing to be on Kirkuk and th­ese other key ar­ti­cles?

In­deed it has been ten years and sadly we have been mis­led by many on the is­sue of Ar­ti­cle 140. We be­lieved strongly that di­a­logue, ad­her­ence to the con­sti­tu­tion and its im­ple­men­ta­tion would even­tu­ally take place, but in­stead we see voices to­day speak­ing of Kur­dis­tan’s de­mands be­ing ex­ces­sive, when on the con­trary we have been ex­tremely pa­tient and could eas­ily have taken full con­trol of th­ese ar­eas our­selves with­out the need for con­sen­sus. We do not want a short term so­lu­tion rather we need to solve this once and for all, and we be­lieve that the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity as well as the United Na­tions need to play a more ac­tive role in the sup­port of Ar­ti­cle 140 and in part they have to be blamed for this is­sue not be- ing solved so far. For ex­am­ple, the peo­ple of the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion have con­tin­u­ously asked for a cen­sus to take place across all of Iraq, yet the other po­lit­i­cal par­ties keep mak­ing ex­cuses. At the same time we are see­ing a shift in Sunni Arabs who are start­ing to also ask for a cen­sus in or­der to be able to as­cer­tain the real num­bers of Iraq’s pop­u­la­tion and from there be able to ad­dress their needs.

Our pa­tience is run­ning thin and the re­cent meet­ings chaired by Pres­i­dent Barzani will re­sult in de­ci­sions be­ing made not only re­gard­ing the bud­get but about sidelin­ing Kurds not only from the po­lit­i­cal process but also deny­ing us our rights en­shrined in Iraq’s con­sti­tu­tion.

What is your view of the re­cent wave of Sunni pro­tects in Iraq, is their a dan­ger that the bloody sec­tar­ian civil war that peaked in 2007 will be re­peated? Does this in­di­cate to you that only way is to cre­ate a fed­eral en­tity for Sun­nis?

Iraq’s Arab Sun­nis have also been marginal­ized heav­ily by Mr. Ma­liki and his State of the Law coali­tion and that is why we are con­stantly in dis­cus­sions with them and other part­ners in the Shi’ite com­mu­nity, be­cause the new Iraq be­longs to all Iraqis and not to one po­lit­i­cal party or one sect. There is a real dan­ger of an­other civil war erupt­ing par­tic­u­larly given Mr. Ma­liki and his State of the Law mem­bers’ com­ments to­wards th­ese pro­test­ers as well as ig­nor­ing many of their le­git­i­mate de­mands. Be­ing a con­sti­tu­tional right, I be­lieve that the Sunni Arabs would be bet­ter off with their own fed­eral re­gion and be­ing in con­trol of run­ning their own cities and towns but the de­ci­sion is up to them and from what I un­der­stand some of them do want their own fed­eral re­gion while oth­ers think it may be more detri­men­tal for them given their re­liance from oil and gas out­side their prov­inces.

The KRG re­la­tions with Turkey have been on a rapid rise, with trade, po­lit­i­cal and en­ergy ties at the fore­front. Would you say that as the gap be­tween Kur­dis­tan and Bagh­dad is grow­ing, that the gap be­tween the Kurds and Turkey is ever clos­ing?

The KRG has an open door pol­icy. The Kur­dis­tan Re­gion would like to es­tab­lish cul­tural, eco­nomic, po­lit­i­cal, and ed­u­ca­tional ties with the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity that mu­tu­ally ben­e­fits both sides, and done within the con­sti­tu­tional frame­work.

KRG’s pol­icy to­wards Bagh­dad and in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity is very clear. The KRG has no pol­icy of en­hanc­ing its ties with Ankara or any other mem­ber of in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity at the ex­pense of Bagh­dad. There are spe­cific rea­sons be­hind the fact that our re­la­tions with Ankara are grow­ing while we reg­u­larly face set­backs in our ties with Bagh­dad.

Grow­ing re­la­tions be­tween Er­bil and Ankara are the re­sult of wise and vi­sion­ary lead­er­ship from both sides. The lead­ers in Kur­dis­tan and Turkey have wisely cho­sen for es­tab­lish­ing mu-

Falah Mustafa Bakir Head of the De­part­ment of For­eign Re­la­tions.

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