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The Kurdish Power-Sharing Issue.

Kurdistan's Sept. 21, 2013, legislative elections produced a surprising jump of the Change Movement (Gorran) to a second place next to Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), and its long-standing partner the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) of Iraq's ailing President Jalal Talabani - Maleki's ally and close to Iran's theocracy. The PUK came third for the 111-seat parliament, with the Islamic League (Komal) having gained more seats as well.

That was mainly the result of splits within the PUK as Talabani had remained in Germany since his hospitalisation in late 2012. Consequently, the power-sharing formula has since changed in favour of Gorran at PUK's expense, and Barzani has sought to form a new KDP-led coalition cabinet giving Gorran portfolios more important than the ones offered to Talabani's party, and to Komal. But the PUK rejected this and insisted on having the key interior ministry. Hence a dead-lock.

In a wide-ranging speech over this and several other issues, Barzani on April 21 said his KDP would retain the interior ministry and that the KRG must be formed before the April 30 national elections. On that occasion, he repeated that Erbil was looking into a confederation with Baghdad or out-right independence, and defended a line of trenches the care-taker KRG was digging to create distance from the civil war in Syria next door. He said: "I prefer to have the names of ministers announced" before April 30.

Barzani insisted the interior ministry has been and should remain in the hands of the KDP, and that the PUK had other portfolios to choose, plus the post of vice-president with the authority of deputy commander-in-chief of all the armed forces. (Previously his nephew, care-taker PM Nechirvan Barzani had offered the post of deputy parliament speaker to the PUK. But the PUK rejected that and repeated its demand for the interior ministry.

Elsewhere in his comments, President Barzani said Erbil's patience with Baghdad was running thin in the oil and budget rows with Maleki and that Kurdistan was considering options for a lasting solution. He warned: "If the situation with Baghdad continues like this, we will declare confederation or independence. We have studied that confederation will resolve our issues".

Baghdad has frozen Kurdistan from the $150bn national budget in response to KRG plans to export its crude oil and natural gas to markets in Turkey and beyond. Days before President Barzani's speech, his nephew Nechirvan had met with Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdo?an in Ankara and the two had reached an "agreement in principle" for the KRG to begin sending crude oil to Turkey through a 300,000 b/d pipeline the Kurds had built separately from the one running from Kirkuk to the Turkish terminal of Ceyhan. That was taken by Erbil as a tacit Turkish consent for whatever President Barzani intended to so if Maleki continued to freeze the KRG from the federal budget and prevent Kurdistan from exporting oil directly through Turkey.

In his April 21 speech, Barzani touched on the issue of Kurdistan's constitution, which in 2013 a number of parties - and recently the PUK - had demanded must be returned to parliament for amendment. Barzani said the constitution would not be taken back to parliament, "but we may need to work on a new constitution" - again referring to the proposed confederation, to which the PUK was opposed in line with the positions of Maleki and Iran's theocracy. But Ankara's position is not clear.

Barzani defended the line of trenches between the KRG territory and Syrian Kurdistan (Western Kurdistan - Rojava), as a security belt to stop Syria's war from creeping across the border. He said: "Security officials have deemed it necessary, and legal ways are open for normal traffic". Erdo?an backs the trench project.

The trench project has been criticised by some political groups in Kurdistan. The strongest opposition came from the anti-Ankara Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and its Syrian ally the Democratic Union Party (PYD) which controls Rojava. They have described it as a project which will further divide Kurdistan.

To counter the argument of the Marxist PKK, KDP's main rival for control over all the Kurdish communities in the Greater Middle East (GME), Barzani disclosed that in 2006 US and Turkish military officials had discussed with him a plan for a major assault on PKK bases, which he had rejected. He said: "But the PKK is not grateful for these things".

Barzani also blamed the PKK for the delay over the convening of the Kurdish National Congress in Erbil, which had been delayed repeatedly by the Marxist group and had last been scheduled for the autumn of 2013. He said the PKK was trying to impose its control over that gathering.

Barzani explained: "The Kurdish National Congress was delayed because the PKK had demanded to field half of the members of the congress. It asked for the congress to have two leaders (the PKK & the KDP). Decisions cannot be made when there is friction. We do not accept the PKK imposing its culture on us". The congress had been planned to focus on autonomy, while the PKK wanted independence.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Fate of the Arabian Peninsula
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Apr 28, 2014
Previous Article:Pax Americana For The Arab-Persian Gulf - Part 25 - Iraqi Kurds For Confederation.
Next Article:The PUK Split.

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