Ma­liki’s eco­nomic siege of Kur­dis­tan shows that the only true friend of the re­gion is the Kurds him­self

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS -

As the Er­bil-Bagh­dad cri­sis reached new lows, Kur­dis­tan Pres­i­dent Mas­saud Barzani warned that the ac­tions of Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki amounted to "a dec­la­ra­tion of war against the people of Kur­dis­tan."

With an in­creas­ingly in­de­pen­dent oil in­fra­struc­ture, all that re­mains be­tween prac­ti­cal in­de­pen­dence is con­trol of oil rev­enues. Bagh­dad knows this very well and has dis­played this lever­age it still pos­sess by re­fus­ing to pay share of Kur­dis­tan na­tional budget and even re­fus­ing to let two small air­lines op­er­ate from Kur­dis­tan, un­til Kur­dis­tan agrees to Bagh­dad con­trol of rev­enues.

This shows that while the rise of Kur­dis­tan, par­tic­u­larly since 2003 has been phenom­e­nal, un­til the Kurds can truly con­trol their own des­tiny and be­come self-suf­fi­cient, they will al­ways be at the mercy of Iraqi and re­gional rulers.

The fa­mous Kur­dish say­ing once re­ver­ber­ated that “Kurds have no friends but the moun­tains”. While this say­ing doesn’t hold true as be­fore, af­ter all there are dozens of con­sulates, hun­dreds of for­eign com­pa­nies and sev­eral oil ma­jors op­er­at­ing in a boom­ing area with Kur­dis­tan en­joy­ing grow­ing strate­gic im­por­tance, it does re­mind the Kurds to keep their guard up, not take any­thing for granted and hold the view that the first friend and guardian is the Kurd him­self.

This is cer­tainly true of ties with the US, who un­der Bar­rack Obama has not only taken a step back but has hastily re­treated from Iraq and the re­gion. As events in 1975 and 1991 have shown the Kurds, US for­eign pol­icy (and in­deed for­eign pol­icy in gen­eral) can be fickle and cruel.

Kurds sought strong ties with Wash­ing­ton and the US was all for work­ing with the Kurds but with their fo­cus on Iraqi sovereignty and not alien­at­ing or up­set­ting Bagh­dad. The US is no stranger to re­solv­ing many crises since 2003, many with the help of the Kurds, but has stayed out of re­cent dis­putes be­tween Er­bil and Bagh­dad even as the Ma­liki’s eco­nomic siege on Kur­dis­tan threat­ens the liveli­hood of Kur­dish fam­i­lies and the re­gion.

The Kurds be­lieved that the stra- te­gic re­la­tion­ship with the US was there to stay but iron­i­cally Wash­ing­ton hasn’t even re­moved the KDP and PUK from their ter­ror list. With an ob­ses­sion of keep­ing a united Iraq, the US has grown un­easy at the new close­ness be­tween Er­bil and Ankara – yet they ini­tially en­cour­aged stronger ties af­ter years of ten­sion and mis­trust be­tween the two sides.

As for Bagh­dad, the Kurds re­gret­tably en­dorsed a sec­ond term for Ma­liki in 2010 in spite of nu­mer­ous failed prom­ises. The fact that many of the 19 points of the Er­bil Agree­ment that al­lowed Ma­liki to come to power re­main un­re­solved tells its own story.

With the Iraqi elec­tions just months away, Ma­liki wants new lever­age among de­fi­ant Sun­nis and dis­en­chanted Shi­ites and the show of strength against the Kurds is one tac­tic. But let it be no doubt that sooner or later, Ma­liki will need the Kurds and once he has fin­ished his sabr­erat­tling, he has to rec­on­cile with the Kurds and seek a res­o­lu­tion for the cur­rent cri­sis.

In re­turn, Ma­liki is at­tempted to po­lit­i­cally black­mail the Kurds into a third term. But the Kurds have to wisely avoid re­peat­ing the mis­take of trust­ing Ma­liki or any other power in Bagh­dad.

The Kurds must show that they are not at the mercy of Bagh­dad, if Ma­liki wants to play hard­ball and hold the re­gion to ran­som, then the Kurds must have and play their own card and lever­age.

Kur­dis­tan can ill-af­ford to have their fu­ture tied to the good­will of Bagh­dad but even that of Ankara and Tehran. The Kurds have had their rights and a free­dom abused and with­held and 2014 is not the time, with the Kur­dish na­tional re­nais­sance and new­found promi­nence, to be re­vis­it­ing days of hold.

This is all the more rea­son for Kur­dish lead­ers to fi­nally form an elu­sive new cab­i­net, work in unity and put aside in­di­vid­ual in­ter­est for the sake of the greater na­tion – af­ter all, if the Kurds won’t help them­selves, then cer­tainly ex­ter­nal forces can­not be trusted to come to their res­cue.

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