Iraq ‘has no re­grets’ about get­ting tough with Kurds

Baghdad or­ders ar­rest of Kur­dish ref­er­en­dum chiefs

Arab News - - FRONT PAGE - SUADAD AL-SALHY

BAGHDAD: Iraq is­sued ar­rest war­rants on Wednesday for the chair­man of the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion’s ref­er­en­dum com­mis­sion and two aides over last month’s vote for Kur­dish in­de­pen­dence.

A spokesman for the Supreme Ju­di­cial Coun­cil said the war­rants for Hen­dreen Mo­hammed and his as­sis­tants were is­sued by a Baghdad court for “vi­o­lat­ing a valid court rul­ing which con­sid­ered the in­de­pen­dence vote in­valid.”

A Jus­tice Min­istry of­fi­cial in the Kur­dis­tan Regional Gov­ern­ment (KRG) dis­missed the de­ci­sion as “po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated.” He said the KRG’s ju­di­ciary was in­de­pen­dent of Baghdad and did not rec­og­nize its le­gal rul­ings.

The Iraqi cen­tral gov­ern­ment has taken puni­tive mea­sures over the in­de­pen­dence vote. It im­posed an in­ter­na­tional flight ban, stopped fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions with the re­gion, and filed for­mal re­quests to Turkey and Iran to stop trade with the KRG and deal ex­clu­sively with Baghdad on oil ex­ports.

On Tues­day, the oil min­istry or­dered state oil companies to be­gin restor­ing the crude oil pipe­line from Kirkuk to the Mediter­ranean port of Cey­han in Turkey, by­pass­ing Kur­dis­tan. The pipe­line has been out of com­mis­sion since it was blown up by mil­i­tants in 2014.

“The Iraqi gov­ern­ment is se­ri­ous … and has no re­grets rel­a­tive to its po­si­tion,” Ali Al-Alaq, a Shi­ite mem­ber of par­lia­ment and one of Prime Min­is­ter Haider Al-Abadi’s po­lit­i­cal ad­vis­ers, told Arab News.

“The gov­ern­ment has be­come more as­sertive in deal­ing with many mat­ters such as the fi­nan­cial vi­o­la­tions, the smug­gling of oil, air­ports, and the land bor­der cross­ings.”

Baghdad sent spe­cial mil­i­tary units and fed­eral Bor­der Patrol of­fi­cers to Turkey and Iran this month for de­ploy­ment near the joint cross­ings. The three coun­tries es­tab­lished a joint op­er­a­tions room to dis­cuss re­lated de­tails; se­nior se­cu­rity of­fi­cials have ex­changed vis­its since the ref­er­en­dum took place. Iraqi of­fi­cials said a se­nior Turk­ish of­fi­cial would visit Iraq to­day to dis­cuss al­ter­na­tives to the cross­ings.

“It is not easy for Turkey or Iran to shut down the cross­ings, de­spite the threats that the ref­er­en­dum rep­re­sents to their national se­cu­rity,” a se­nior Iraqi fed­eral of­fi­cial in­volved in talks told Arab News.

“The ses­sions are con­tin­u­ing and all sides are look­ing to find ap­pro­pri­ate al­ter­na­tives, so we can move to ei­ther shut down the cross­ings or re­gain con­trol of them. We have to be prag­matic, and find­ing ap­pro­pri­ate al­ter­na­tives to these cross­ings needs time.”

Iraqi Kur­dis­tan re­gion has two of­fi­cial cross­ings with Turkey and Iran, Ebrahim Al-Khalil in De­huk and Hajj Om­ran in Su­laimaniya. Kur­dis­tan has re­fused to hand over con­trol of the cross­ings, but the KRG has said noth­ing about cre­at­ing new ones out­side Kur­dis­tan.

“There have been many at­tempts, but noth­ing so far but talks,” Lt. Gen. Jabar Yaour, gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Pesh­merga Min­istry in the KRG, told Arab News. “Opening new cross­ings needs a long time.

“Up to now, the cross­ing ports in Kur­dis­tan are work­ing and the ex­port of oil has not stopped.”

Kur­dish women protest out­side Ir­bil air­port on Sept. 29 against the flight ban is­sued by the Iraqi fed­eral gov­ern­ment. (AP)

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