Kurds-Bagh­dad Ne­go­ti­a­tions: In­de­pen­dence Seek­ers Mak­ing Deal with Cen­tral­iz­ers

The Kurdish Globe - - NATIONAL -

It has been a decade since the prom­ise of a new demo­cratic Iraq, which planted op­ti­mism all over the coun­try, es­pe­cially in the Kur­dish re­gion where Sad­dam’s atroc­i­ties were felt most. Ten years on and the promised demo­cratic Iraq proved in­ca­pable of even catch­ing up with the daily needs of its cit­i­zens lest of all solv­ing the cen­tury old in­ter­nal dilem­mas haunt­ing the coun­try and claim­ing its cit­i­zens’ lives.

Kur­dish and Iraqi of­fi­cials have met many times, and de­clared agree­ments in sev­eral cases; nev­er­the­less, these agree­ments have failed to solve the prob­lems and some Kurds seem to re­gard the Ma­liki govern­ment as an ex­ten­sion of pre­vi­ous Iraqi govern­ments headed by Ba’athist and Iraqi monar­chs. Tak­ing a look at the his­tor­i­cal evo­lu­tion of the Kur­dish-Iraqi re­la­tions will help in un­der­stand­ing the roots of the prob­lem, and the rea­sons be­hind the con­tin­ued fail­ure in es­tab­lish­ing a com­pre­hen­sive and sus­tain­able pea­ce­plan.

Iraq as a state was en­gi­neered by the colo­nial pow­ers for their in­ter­ests. For the colo­nial pro­ject to suc­ceed, Arabs and Kurds were forced to live un­der a manda­tory co­ex­is­tence. It is al­most a cen­tury and Iraqi state’s sur­vival has claimed many in­no­cent lives, while nei­ther Kurds, nor Arabs are sat­is­fied with their sta­tus, Kurds have re­volted many times, start­ing as early as 1918, to rec­tify what they be­lieve to be a his­toric in­jus­tice to claim their right of hav­ing an in­de­pen­dent home­land. These re­volts have faced bru­tal crack­downs, as in­cum­bents in Bagh­dad be­lieved it is their right to rule the Kurd- ish ar­eas the same way they were rul­ing the rest of the coun­try. Since the aim of in­de­pen­dence was not fea­si­ble, Kurds con­ducted a num­ber of peace ne­go­ti­a­tions with Bagh­dad, es­pe­cially at times when Bagh­dad was weak and not ca­pa­ble of crush­ing the Kur­dish re­volts by force. The most fa­mous one was the 1970 peace agree­ment. How­ever, the main out­come shared by all these agree­ments so far has been to post­pone the prob­lems for a fu­ture time. The Iraqi side has done so with the hope of man­ag­ing the Kur­dish un­rest till the cen­tral govern­ment gets enough mil­i­tary and fi­nan­cial might to crush the Kur­dish polity by force. Kurds have signed such agree­ments as the best op­tion avail­able in ab­sence of in­ter­na­tional sup­port for their in­de­pen­dence cause and lack of bet­ter op­tions on the ta­ble.

The main points of dis­cord in these agree­ments have been on is­sues re­lated to dif­fer­ent con­cepts of power and power shar­ing, such as the size of the Kur­dish ad­min­is­tered ter­ri­tory, man­age­ment of its nat­u­ral re­sources, the sta­tus of its mil­i­tary force and the ex­tent of its ad­min­is­tra­tional au­thor­i­ties. The men­tal­ity in Bagh­dad in­sists that a strong Iraq is a state with a strong cen­tral govern­ment mo­nop­o­liz­ing the mil­i­tary, eco­nomic and ad­min­is­tra­tive pow­ers, while Kurds as a na­tion are forced to share a bloody his­tory full of mis­trust. Hence, clash of these two dif­fer­ent men­tal­i­ties has turned all the agree­ments into a cri­sis – post­pon­ing agree­ments rather than solv­ing prob­lems.

Muham­mad Wal­ad­bagi

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