No, New Iraq.. without Kurds
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that the Kurds are very close to reaching a final agreement, with the Iraqi government (the Shiite majority).
Now I will reiterate that the Kurds have always been a stabilizing factor in the new democratic Iraq, and that the Kurds hold the winning cards in the game of politics in the region, not only for the Iraqi political groups of the Shi’a coalitions and Sunni groups, but even for superpowers like the US and the EU.
Sooner or later, Mr. al Maliki, the Shi’a coalitions and the Sunni political groups will realize that… there can be no New Iraq without the Kurds, and no democratic modern Iraq, and hence no bright future for the people of Iraq, without the Kurds!
Al Maliki’s last official trip to Kurdistan was in 2010, when the Erbil Agreement was struck which allowed him to form a power-sharing government of majority Shiites, Sunnis and ethnic Kurds after months of wrangling.
That deal, like others after it, was never fully implemented, and Baghdad’s central government and the KRG have been at odds ever since over oil and disputed territories along their internal border.
With the country’s Shi’a leadership facing fallout from the Syrian conflict, which has invigorated Sunni insurgents in Iraq and prompted warnings of civil war, better relations with the Kurds could ease the pressure on Maliki.
As an autonomous part of Iraq since 1991, Kurdistan runs its own administration and armed forces, but the region relies on the national government for a share of the budget financed by the OPEC nation’s oil revenues.
In recent years, the Kurds have signed contracts on their own terms with the likes of Exxon Mobil, Total and Chevron Corp, antagonizing Baghdad, which insists it alone is entitled to control the exploration of Iraq’s oil.
Easing relations with the Kurds would help Al Maliki, who is facing an intensified campaign by Sunni Islamist insurgents and months of protests by Sunni leaders who accuse the Shiite premier of marginalizing them.
Relations between Maliki's Baghdad-based central government and Iraqi Kurdistan have been tense for years, with both sides disagreeing about who should control Iraqi oil resources and territories along their internal boundary. No breakthroughs on those issues were expected during Maliki's talks with Iraqi Kurdish officials.
The Kurdish region has been building a pipeline that would allow it to export oil extracted from its territory to neighboring Turkey, bypassing pipelines controlled by Baghdad. The independent pipeline could help Iraqi Kurdistan to reduce its reliance on central government funds for a significant portion of its budget.
Kurdish leaders have also long been demanding an expansion of their authority to include oil-rich areas of northern Iraq adjacent to the three autonomous Kurdish provinces. Baghdad has resisted those demands.
Iraqi Sunnis have held months of protests demanding the resignation of Mr. Maliki, a Shi'ite whom they accuse of concentrating power in the hands of fellow Shi'ites and unfairly target-