Un­sat­is­fied with a rag­ing war with Sunni mil­i­tants, Ma­liki launches new front against the Kurds

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS - By Bash­dar Pusho Is­maeel

Re­la­tions be­tween the Kur­dis­tan Re­gional Govern­ment (KRG) and Bagh­dad were al­ready at a his­tor­i­cal low. Yet for those who thought that ties could not get any worse, a se­ries of events last week saw the line re­drawn.

Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki launched a fierce at­tack on the Kurds on na­tional tele­vi­sion, warn­ing “We will not re­sort to si­lence while Er­bil is a head­quar­ters for ISIS, Ba'athists, al-Qaeda and ter­ror­ists.”

Such strong re­marks drew the in­evitable ire of the Kur­dish lead­er­ship, with Kur­dish MP’s soon boy­cotting the Iraqi Par­lia­ment with Kur­dis­tan Pres­i­dent Mas­saud Barzani hit­ting back at a Ma­liki who he deemed to have be­come “hys­ter­i­cal” and “lost his bal­ance” and who he urged to stand down.

The Kurds have fre­quently warned that a third-ten­ure as Prime Min­is­ter for Ma­liki would sig­nal cur­tains on Iraq.

On Fri­day, Kurds moved to se­cure the strate­gic oil fields in Bai Has­san and the Makhmour area to de­fend the oil in­fra­struc­ture from what the Kurds deemed “po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated sab­o­tage.”

KRG Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources re­leased a state­ment con­firm­ing the Kurds had “moved to se­cure the oil fields after learn­ing of or­ders by of­fi­cials in the fed­eral Min­istry of Oil in Bagh­dad to sab­o­tage the re­cent mu­tu­ally-agreed pipe­line in­fra­struc­ture link­ing the Avana dome with the Khur­mala field.”

A fu­ri­ous Bagh­dad had al­ready gone as far as ban­ning cargo flights to Kur­dis­tan and even moved to halt in­ter­na­tional flights. At the same time it re­placed Hoshi­yar Ze­bari as For­eign Min­is­ter with Deputy Prime Min­is­ter for En­ergy Hus­sain al-Shahris­tani.

The es­ca­lat­ing rhetoric and tit-for-tat moves would be bad enough in any nor­mal day in Iraq with Bagh­dad and Er­bil gov­ern­ments bor­der­ing each other.

Any­one ob­serv­ing last weeks would be for­giv­ing for think­ing that the Iraqi prob­lem is lim­ited to the Kurds and the Ma­liki govern­ment. Yet there is a not so small dilemma of an Is­lamist State in the mid­dle.

Over a month since Mo­sul, Tikrit and large swathes of ter­ri­tory was taken over by ISIS led Sunni in­sur­gents, Iraq is gripped in vi­o­lence. De­spite mil­i­tary aid from Rus­sia and Iran, Iraqi forces have largely failed to dis­lodge the mil­i­tants.

While the mil­i­tants have not made ad­vances, what they have done is es­sen­tially en­trench their new bor­ders and with it Iraq’s par­ti­tion into 3 sep­a­rate en­ti­ties.

The Kur­dish Pesh­merga forces have been in­volved in fierce bat­tles with ISIS mil­i­tants, fill­ing a cru­cial se­cu­rity vacuum and hous­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of refugees. But it seems that Bagh­dad is in­tent on cre­at­ing more en­e­mies in the midst of a deadly sec- tar­ian war.

The sharp es­ca­la­tion of ten­sions be­tween Kurds and Bagh­dad may jeop­ar­dise Kur­dish sup­port against ISIS – why bat­tle in­sur­gents and risk lives for a pre­mier that is es­sen­tially ac­cus­ing you of col­lab­o­rat­ing with them any­way?

Iron­i­cally, it was the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion that once pro­tected a Ma­liki on the run from Sad­dam Hus­sein. Shi­ites at the time fought Sad­dam against cen­trist Sunni re­pres­sion and many sought to es­tab­lish an Is­lamic state at the time akin to Tehran. In 2014, the ta­bles have merely turned with Sun­nis on the at­tack.

In the midst of ten­sion be­tween Kurds and a rag­ing sec­tar­ian war, the Iraq po­lit­i­cal cham­bers are get­ting in­creas­ingly empty. Au­gust 12th is the new date set to re­con­vene par­lia­ment, why such a laboured po­lit­i­cal process if there is real in­tent to heal na­tional rifts and at a time of na­tional emer­gency?

Un­less Ma­liki steps down and a rec­on­cil­ia­tory stance is adopted in Bagh­dad, the Kurds will as­sume the next gear in their in­de­pen­dence drive.

Bagh­dad au­thor­i­ties may be fu­ri­ous with the Kurds but then what reper­cus­sion is left to hit the Kurds? Oil ex­ports were al­ready halted, share of na­tional bud­get with­held, no govern­ment ex­ists, Kurds stripped of min­istries, and cargo flights are sus­pended.

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