Wary Kurds keep “all op­tions on the ta­ble”

Af­ter two Ma­liki terms and bro­ken prom­ises,

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS - By Bash­dar Pusho Is­maeel

With the much an­tic­i­pated Iraqi elec­tion re­sults yet to an­nounced, it is cer­tain that the next govern­ment for­ma­tion will be as fraught as 2010 and that Iraq will strug­gle to stitch to­gether its fall­ing pieces.

For the Kurds, for all their crit­i­cism of in­cum­bent Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki and Bagh­dad, they played a cru­cial hand in cre­at­ing the Ma­liki monster. Com­plaint of Ma­liki’s cen­tral­ist ten­den­cies and lack of real in­tent to re­solve key is­sues be­tween Bagh­dad and the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion goes back to Ma­liki’s first ten­ure at the helm.

Af­ter much hes­i­ta­tion and months of ne­go­ti­a­tions, the Kurds played a cru­cial role in the even­tual break­through that saw Ma­liki se­cure a sec­ond term. The ba­sis of the Kur­dish part­ner­ship on both oc­ca­sions was sev­eral firm de­mands and count­less prom­ises from Ma- liki.

Yet not only were most of these prom­ises not kept in the first term but Ma­liki with grow­ing power and dom­i­nance de­cided that the ma­jor­ity of the prom­ises that un­der­pinned the sec­ond term went openly un­ful­filled as well.

Now as State of Law Coali­tion looks cer­tain to se­cure most seats in the elec­tions, Ma­liki is al­ready at­tempt­ing to piece to­gether votes for a third term in power.

Kur­dish sup­port amidst failed prom­ises the first time is un­for­tu­nate, for a sec­ond time un­ac­cept­able and now for a third time it would be un­for­giv­able.

11 years since the fall of Sad­dam is hardly a small win­dow of op­por­tu­nity for progress and im­ple­men­ta­tion of key steps. How­ever, much of the key de­mands of the Kurds have failed to be im­ple­mented. Dis­puted ter­ri­to­ries re­main un­re­solved, na­tional budget continues to un­der­mine Kurds, a na­tional cen­sus continues to be post­poned, a na­tional hy­dro­car­bon law does not ex­ist and Bagh­dad continues to try and main­tain the um­bil­i­cal cord to Kur­dis­tan.

This week Kur­dis­tan Pres­i­dent Mas­saud Barzani was un­am­bigu­ous on his view of Ma­liki and the down­ward spi­ral in Iraq, la­bel­ing gov­er­nance un­der Ma­liki as “to­tal­i­tar­i­an­ism” and with “no part­ner­ship”. "He is the num­ber one re­spon­si­ble for it. He was ca­pa­ble of not al­low­ing the whole process to go in that di­rec­tion," Barzani added.

Barzani warned that "all op­tions are on the ta­ble," for the Kurds, threat­en­ing to boy­cott the whole process.

The Kur­dish pa­tience is wear­ing thin and Barzani is clearly does not want en­ter­tain fur­ther wait­ing games for sev­eral more years but in­stead em­pha­sised the time for “fi­nal de­ci­sions”.

Barzani’s state­ments come as Ma­liki at­tempted to reach out to the Kurds, iron­i­cally as de­bates over oil ex­ports threaten to es­ca­late and as the Kur­dish share of the budget has been fre­quently with­held to pres­sure the Kurds.

Af­ter months of de­lays and lack of progress with Bagh­dad, Kur­dis­tan has de­cided to sell oil in­de­pen­dently with Bagh­dad promis­ing strong re­tal­i­a­tion of their own. How­ever, Barzani is not about to back down from this game chang­ing and his­tor­i­cal de­ci­sion for Kur­dis­tan.

For the Kurds, tan­gi­ble and guar­an­teed ac­tions are needed as op­posed to the usual rhetoric and prom­ises if they are to join the next govern­ment. If it takes sev­eral months to achieve these prac­ti­cal steps to con­vince the Kurds and de­lay govern­ment for­ma­tion then so be it. It is bet­ter to waste months rather than more years.

The Kurds can­not be held ac­count­able for the deep­en­ing dis­in­te­gra­tion of Iraq, Ma­liki’s cen­tral­ist poli­cies and fail­ure to curb sec­tar­i­an­ism and in­sur­gency have al­ready done plenty to en­sure that. Back home, the Kurds must quickly form a much de­layed unity govern­ment. As Kur­dish par­ties con­tinue ne­go­ti­a­tions and con­sul­ta­tions, Barzani stated “all Kur­dish po­lit­i­cal par­ties now have a com­mon stance on how to deal with Bagh­dad and the next steps in the Iraqi po­lit­i­cal process.”

A Kur­dish po­si­tion that is not en­dorsed by all re­gional par­ties will sim­ply be ex­ploited by Ma­liki and his back­ers in Tehran and greatly weaken the Kur­dish hand.

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