Is this about oil or about curb­ing Kur­dish au­ton­omy?

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS - By Gazi Has­san

Ev­ery year at the mo­ment of pass­ing the an­nual Iraqi budget, dis­putes and fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence be­tween the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion and Bagh­dad emerge. On many oc­ca­sions, the US has taken it upon it­self to calm things down and solve the prob­lems peace­fully. In past years, how­ever, there was noth­ing on the ground about the Re­gion's oil ex­port via Turkey. Like other years, the is­sue of the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion’s 17% share of the na­tional budget is a bone of con­tention, though Iraqi PM Nori Ma­liki seems to mean it this time when he says he won’t give the Re­gion its money. He wants to pe­nal­ize the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion and put pres­sure on its au­thor­i­ties from a pub­lic an­gered by de­lays in the pay­ment of their monthly salaries. This has all been done on the pre­text of Er­bil’s sup­posed fail­ure to send oil rev­enues to Bag­dad—of course, of­fi­cials in Turkey have stated that the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion’s oil has not yet been sold.

We should know that the 2003 Iraqi budget states that the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion has to ex­port 250 000 bar­rels of oil, while this has been in­creased to 400 000 bar­rels in 2014’s budget. Bag­dad says that if the Re­gion does not ex­port that amount of oil, the money should be taken off the Re­gion’s 17% share of the federal budget. On other words, Ma­liki wants to pe­nal­ize the people of Kur­dis­tan.

The 2014 Iraqi budget bill is es­ti­mated at ID 170 tril­lion, which means an ID 30 tril­lion deficit. Some of the lead­ers in Ma­liki’s State of Law List have made threats to the ef­fect that it is their na­tional duty to pe­nal­ize Kur­dis­tan Re­gion. How­ever, they do not seem to have con­sid­ered that Ma­liki’s pol­icy is leading to the dis­in­te­gra­tion of Iraq; Ma­liki does not seem to care, how­ever—he is re­ly­ing on strikes and im­po­si­tion be­cause he wants to win votes by cham­pi­oning his own ‘war on ter­ror’. Some mem­bers of his State of Law list say the Iraqi budget will have an additional ID 7 tril­lion deficit if the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion does not pump 400 000 bpd. In other words, they are seek­ing to turn the pun­ish­ment of Kur­dis­tan into a con­sti­tu­tional duty re­lat­ing to peo­ples’ in­come. Mean­while, in Iraq, huge sums of money and oil are lost ev­ery year or spent in the name of the war on ter­ror on re­in­forc­ing the army and the po­lice. If that money were spent on re­con­struct­ing Iraq, its cit­i­zens’ life and psy­cho­log­i­cal state would be far bet­ter.

Over the two last months, the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion has wit­nessed is­sues re­lat­ing to govern­ment em­ploy­ees’ pay­ments and bank short­falls. It’s true that the same is­sues arose pre­vi­ously in Sle­many, but this time the en­tire Re­gion was af­fected. Of course, it’s now clear to people as well as po­lit­i­cal par­ties that Nori Ma­liki wants to pe­nal­ize Kur­dis­tan. Many fac­tors might be be­hind this, one of which is the pos­si­bil­ity that Ma­liki wants the Kurds to join the sec­tar­ian war against the Sun­nis, while he hasn’t pro­vided a budget for the Pesh­marga in sev­eral years. He also wants to limit the power of the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion and pre­vent it from pro­gress­ing to­wards ad­min­is­tra­tive and ex­ec­u­tive in­de­pen­dence. He also wants to see re­la­tions de­te­ri­o­rate be­tween the Re­gion and Turkey. The Re­gion’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in Davos and its in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions are against Bag­dad’s will, for they will strengthen the po­lit­i­cal, eco­nom­i­cal and diplo­matic po­si­tion of the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion in re­la­tion to Bagh­dad. That’s why Bagh­dad wants to put an end to these cru­cial steps be­ing taken by the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion and its po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship.

It should not be for­got­ten that even prior to the oil ex­port is­sue, Bag­dad had prob­lems with the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion. The budget is a prob­lem ev­ery year, while Ar­ti­cle 140 has still not been im­ple­mented to re­solve the deep po­lit­i­cal and his­tor­i­cal is­sues re­lat­ing to the dis­puted ar­eas. Then the Pesh­marga is­sue came along, be­fore fi­nally be­ing joined by the clash over oil and gas. The is­sues are ba­si­cally re­lated to a to­tal­i­tar­ian ide­ol­ogy which re­lies on Iraqi rad­i­cal na­tion­al­ism. Nori Ma­liki may have proved him­self in­ca­pable of con­trol­ling cities like Ro­madi or Faluja, of elim­i­nat­ing ter­ror­ists or stop­ping the con­stant ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Bag­dad, but he still wants to tell the Kurds that they should re­turn to rule by the cen­tral govern­ment: the Kurds should not take a step with­out con­sult­ing Bagh­dad first. So the prob­lem is re­lated to the pol­icy of Ara­biza­tion and pe­nal­iza­tion of the people of Kur­dis­tan, through cut­ting off the budget and em­ployee pay­ments. The real is­sue here isn’t oil, it is the progress the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion is mak­ing to­wards con­struct­ing and de­vel­op­ing Kur­dis­tan eco­nom­i­cally, po­lit­i­cally and diplo­mat­i­cally.

The mat­ter re­lates, too, to the se­cu­rity im­prove­ments that have been achieved in the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion which con­trast so starkly with the de­cline into sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence, ter­ror, in­sta­bil­ity and loss of con­trol in those parts of the coun­try un­der the author­ity of the Ma­liki govern­ment. It’s about the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion strength­en­ing its ties and build­ing trust with the out­side world, while Bagh­dad grows weaker in­ter­na­tion­ally af­ter a string of govern­ment fail­ures. So Amer­ica and in­ter­na­tional so­ci­ety, faced with a Mid­dle East in flames, have a moral duty not to sac­ri­fice the sta­ble, de­vel­oped and demo­cratic re­gion of Kur­dis­tan to their in­ter­ests with the cen­tral govern­ment in Bag­dad.

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