Iraqi Turkmen Caught in Middle Of Baghdad-Erbil Conflict

December 14, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Iraqi Turkmen Caught in Middle Of Baghdad-Erbil Conflict
By: Fikret Bila. Translated from Milliyet (Turkey).

See the original article in Turkish after the English translation

The tension between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Kurdish President Massoud Barzani is escalating. Maliki’s soldiers of the Tigris Operations Command (TOC) and the Kurdish Peshmergas are eyeballing each other. Barzani visited the Peshmerga force he deployed under the command of his brother. He carried out a pre-combat inspection and boosted the spirits of his fighters, while Maliki reinforced the TOC forces. Both sides appear to be ready for an Arab-Kurd war.

About this Article

As tensions continue to escalate between Iraq’s central government and the Kurdistan region, Ankara must provide support for Iraqi Turkmen, writes Fikret Bila.

Publisher: Milliyet (Turkey)
Original Title:
What is the Status of Turkmens?
Author: Fikret Bila
Published on: Wed, Dec 12, 2012
Translated on: Thu, Dec 13, 2012
Translated by: Timur Goksel

 

Question of Kirkuk

The basic cause of the tension is related to control of Kirkuk. The struggle to control oil and natural-gas reserves have been ongoing since the US occupation of Iraq. Today, Kirkuk is under the control of the Kurdish administration. The final goal of the Kurds is to attach Kirkuk to the Kurdish Regional Government. This is why Barzani has been trying hard to change to demographic make up of Kirkuk and Mosul since 2003. He is settling Kurds in Kirkuk, opening up new settlements for the Kurds in Turkmen areas and never misses an opportunity to say, “Kirkuk is a Kurdish town.”

Maliki has reacted sternly to Barzani’s total disregard of Baghdad in recent times.

Causes of the conflict

Middle East expert Ali Semin of BILGESAM (WiseManCenter for Strategic Research) listed the causes of the Maliki-Barzani conflict. These include:

  1. Northern Iraq’s acting as if it were an independent state and the Barzani administration making oil deals without the approval of Baghdad
  2. Barzani’s efforts to control Baghdad and Maliki’s efforts to control Erbil
  3. Barzani’s domestic and foreign policies, which are totally out of sync with Baghdad
  4. Maliki basing his regional policies on Tehran, and Barzani’s strategy based on Ankara

Status of the Turkmen

In 2003, while the US was preparing to invade Iraq, Turkmens were one of the red lines drawn by Turkey. Placing entirety of Kirkuk under Kurdish rule, attaching it to northern Iraq and any harm to the lives and properties of the Turkmens were Turkey’s red lines.

In the confusion that followed the Turkish parliament’s rejection of a US operation in Iraq via Turkey, the redlines related to the Turkmen disappeared, along with some others. The status of the Turkmen went to the bottom of the agenda and never reemerged.

As Maliki and Barzani are deploying their troops in disputed areas where the Turkmen live, what is the status of the Turkmen today?

Semin summarizes the situation: “A potential Arab-Kurdish clash would be mostly in Turkmen areas. The Turkmen, who don’t have an armed force, will suffer. When you look at the situation from this angle, it is important for the Turkmen to go along with the central government in Baghdad no matter who is heading it. Moreover, the Iraqi Turkmen Front must immediately initiate efforts for a reconciliation between Baghdad and Erbil. The Turkmen no longer have time to pursue a wait-and-see policy regarding Iraqi politics.”

Do the Turkmen have the capability to mediate between Erbil and Baghdad? Is there a reason for Maliki and Barzani to pay attention to the Turkmen?

It is not easy answer positively to these questions. For the Turkmen to have such influence, they must feel the power and the support of Turkey behind them. While Ankara has burned its bridges with Baghdad while getting closer to Erbil, it is difficult to claim that the Turkmen feel such power and support behind them.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/security/01/12/iraqi-turkmens-status-turkey.html#ixzz2F1fD8LH5

  http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/security/01/12/iraqi-turkmens-status-turkey.html

 

 ORIGINAL ARTICLE:

http://siyaset.milliyet.com.tr/turkmenler-ne-durumda-/siyaset/siyasetyazardetay/12.12.2012/1640621/default.htm

 

Türkmenler ne durumda?

 

Fikret Bila Yönfbila@milliyet.com.tr Tüm Yazıları »

 

Irak’ta Maliki-Barzani gerginliği giderek tırmanıyor. Maliki’nin kurduğu Dicle Operasyon Gücü’ne bağlı askerlerle, Barzani’nin peşmerge ordusu karşı karşıya geldiler.
Barzani, Kerkük’e kardeşinin komutasında gönderdiği peşmerge gücünü ziyaret etti. Cepheden fotoğraf verdi. “Savaşa hazırlık” teftişi yaptı. Askerlerine moral verdi.
Aynı şekilde Irak Başbakanı Maliki de Dicle Operasyon Komutanlığı’na bağlı askerleri takviye etti. İki taraf da muhtemel bir Kürt-Arap savaşına hazırlıklı görünüyorlar.

Kerkük sorunu
Yaşanan gerginliğin temel nedeninin Kerkük sorunu olduğunu söyleyebiliriz.
ABD’nin Irak’ı işgalinden bu yana, petrol ve gaz yataklarını kimin kontrol edeceği konusunda mücadele sürüyor.
Şu anda Kerkük, Kürtlerin yönetimi altında.
Kürtlerin nihai hedefi Kerkük’ü, Bölgesel Kürt Yönetimi’ne bağlamak. Barzani, bunun koşullarını oluşturmak için 2003 yılından beri Kerkük ve Musul’da demografik yapıyı değiştirmek için gayret gösteriyor.
Kerkük’e Kürtleri yerleştiriyor. Türkmen bölgelerinde Kürtler için yeni yerleşim alanları açıyor. Ve her fırsatta, “Kerkük, bir Kürt kentidir” diye açıklamalar yapıyor.
Son dönemde Barzani’nin Bağdat’tan tamamen bağımsız hareket etmesi, Maliki’nin sert tepkisine yol açtı.

Çatışmanın nedenleri
BİLGESAM’dan Ortadoğu uzmanı Ali Semin, makalesinde Maliki-Barzani çatışmasının nedenlerini şu başlıklar altında topluyor:
1- Kuzey Irak’ın bağımsız bir devlet gibi hareket etmesi, Barzani yönetiminin Bağdat’tan onay almadan petrol anlaşmaları yapması,
2- Barzani’nin Bağdat’ı, Maliki’nin Erbil’i kontrol altına alma çabaları,
3- Barzani’nin Bağdat’tan tamamen uzak bir iç ve dış politika izlemesi,
4- Maliki, Tahran eksenli bir bölgesel politika geliştirirken, Barzani’nin Ankara üzerinden bir strateji geliştirmesi.

Türkmenlerin durumu
ABD’nin Irak’ı işgale hazırlandığı 2003 başlarında Türkmenler, Türkiye’nin, “kırmızı çizgileri”nden birini oluşturuyordu.
Kerkük’ün, tümüyle Kürt yönetimine geçmesi ve Kuzey Irak’a bağlanması, Türkmenlerin can ve mal güvenliğine gelecek zararlar, Ankara için kırmızı çizgiydi.
1 Mart tezkeresinin Türkiye tarafından reddedilmesi sonrasında yaşanan gelişmeler içinde diğerleriyle birlikte Türkmenlerle ilgili kırmızı çizgi de kayboldu. Türkmenlerin durumu giderek gündemin arka sıralarına kaydı ve bir daha da ön plana çıkmadı.
Maliki-Barzani’nin, çoğu Türkmen bölgesi olan tartışmalı alanlarda askerlerini karşılıklı mevzilendirdikleri bu ortamda, Türkmenlerin durumu nedir?
BİLGESAM uzmanı Semin, Türkmenler açısından durumu şöyle özetliyor:
“Olası bir Arap-Kürt çatışması büyük oranda Türkmen bölgelerinde yaşanacaktır. Böylece silahlı gücü olmayan Türkmenler, bundan hem maddi hem manevi zarar görecektir. Bu açıdan bakıldığında Türkmenlerin merkezi hükümetin başında kim olursa olsun Bağdat yönetimiyle birlikte hareket etmeleri önem arz etmektedir. Dahası Türkmenler (Irak Türkmen Cephesi) Bağdat-Erbil arasında uzlaşma sağlanması için taraflarla görüşmelere bir an önce başlamalıdır. Türkmenlerin artık Irak siyasetinde ‘bekle-gör’ politikası izleyecek zamanları kalmamıştır.”
Türkmenlerin, Erbil-Bağdat arasında bir çeşit arabuluculuk yapacakları güçleri var mı? Maliki ve Barzani’nin, Türkmenleri dikkate alması için bir neden var mı?
Bu sorulara kolayca olumlu yanıt vermek zor. Her şeyden önce Türkmenlerin böyle bir güce ulaşmaları ve işlev görmeleri için Türkiye’nin gücünü ve desteğini hissetmeleri gerekir. Ankara, Bağdat’la köprüleri atıp Erbil’e yaklaşmışken, Türkmenlerin, böyle bir güç ve destek hissettiklerini söylemek güçtür.

 

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A Story of Kerkük – Bir Kerkük Masali

December 7, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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BİR KERKÜK MASALI

Ferid Müftü 2007 

BİR KERKÜK MASALI = BİR RESİM , BİN HASRET VE BİR ŞİİR…!!
A story of KERKÜK (KIRKUK) = one photo, thousand longing and one poem…!!

Turkish FM Ahmet Davutoğlu’s historic visit to Kerkuk

August 2, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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On this photo: Iraqi Turkmen Front’s President Ershad Salihi, Turkish FM Ahmet Davutoğlu, Iraqi MP  Jale Neftci and Iraqi MP Hasan Özmen – in Kerkuk- 2nd August 2012

Iraqi Turkmen in Kerkuk call to reclaim their lands

October 12, 2011 at 10:40 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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 Published in Alsumaria

Iraq Turkmen in Kirkuk call to reclaim their lands

Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Tens of Iraqi Turkmen from Kirkuk demonstrated, on Sunday, calling to reclaim their lands that were confiscated by
the former regime and to call for the amendment of Property Disputes Commission’s law.
Demonstrators refused to receive financial indemnities in return of their lands. Kirkuk provincial council, for its part, affirmed that there were more than 45 thousand cases over disputed lands in Kirkuk.

“Tens of citizens from Tis’in region and other Kirkuk areas took to the streets on Sunday in a peaceful demonstration to protest against the non-recuperation of their lands which were seized by the former regime,” protestor Mahdi Saheb told Alsumarianews. “Demonstrators requested from the central government, the parliament and the Commission of Property Disputes to
return Turkmens’ properties and lands in Tis’in region and other parts of Kirkuk to their original owners,” he added.

“Legitimate land owners still have old documents that prove their ownership,” Saheb declared. “They have presented
petitions to the Property Disputes Commission in order to recover their lands, however, they haven’t received so far any indemnity which is anyway a minor compensation,” he noted.

“Protesters do not seek indemnities. All they want is to get back their lands,” Saheb concluded.

“Kirkuk provincial council has a special committee related to the Property Disputes Commission which is believed to be one of the most complicated issues that should be dealt with,” Kirkuk provincial council member Najat Hassan told Alsumarianews.
“Turkmens are suffering from Properties Disputes Law that entitles governmental institutions to own the lands they need,” he added. “These lands must be returned to their owners before proceeding with the right to own or not”, Hassan  said.

“There are about 45 thousand cases over disputed lands in Kirkuk,” Hassan continued. “Many of these cases didn’t acquire a definitive status yet despite the settling of many others,” he added. “Indemnities don’t compensate what have been ripped off and the Ministry of Finance along with other ministries are not paying off financial dues because of the amount of  compensations,” Hassan assured.

The Commission of Property Disputes in Kirkuk, affirms that there are 43 thousand property cases out of which 5% were
settled by paying off real estate indemnities in Kirkuk.

TURKMENS COMMEMORATE THE 14th JULY 1959 MASSACRE WHICH TOOK PLACE IN KERKUK

July 13, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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TURKMENS COMMEMORATE THE 14th JULY 1959 MASSACRE WHICH TOOK PLACE IN KERKUK

 
 


Iraqi Turkmens remember their martyrs

Below is an extract from Mahir NAKIP’s book: “The Historical and Cultural Identity of Kirkuk”:

14 July 1959 was the first anniversary of the revolution. The whole of Kirkuk was in celebratory mood. Houses and shops were decorated with flags. The Turkmen had raised funds among themselves in order to pay for the decoration of the city. The only unusual event was the Kurdish militia coming on trucks from neighbouring villages with ropes and clubs in their hands.  Kurdish officers of the People’s Army were also roaming around the city in their white uniforms imprinted with pictures of doves. They were shouting provocative slogans, praising Qasim and the Communist Party.

The official ceremonies commemorating the revolution started in the evening, at 18:00, due to the severe heat. The first parade, performed by the lawyers, doctors and civil servants had just finished. The Mayor, communist administrators, communist organization members such as the revolutionist teachers and students organizations and People’s Resistance Organization members were ready at the first rows of the second parade.  Some Kurdish militia members were shouting slogans against the Turks whom they accused of being nationalists, reactionists and racists.

The first spark flashed when the parade passed in front of the coffee house where Turkmen used to gather. Someone fired some shots and the uproar started.  Women and children ran to escape. Uthman Khidir was the first one to be murdered with one single bullet. Uthman Khidir was stripped to the skin and was tied behind a jeep.  He was thus dragged through the streets until his body became unrecognizable and tossed away.

The communists, who roamed the streets on the cars of the Second Division and the People’s Army, announced by loudspeaker the imposition of a curfew.  But it later became clear that this order was addressed to and followed by Turkmen only.  The communists and Kurdish militias started to raid and damage the houses, shops and cars of the Turkmens under the pretext of carrying out searches. The young Colonel Abdullah Abdurrahman, who realized the significance of the situation, went immediately to Baghdad and advised Qasim about the events, but Qasim’s units did not arrive in Kirkuk until three days after the events.

The next target of the communist Kurds was Retired Major Ata Hayrullah, the former Chief of military intelligence for the Second Division and his brother Dr. Ehsan Hayrullah.  Both were Nadim Tabakchali’s colleagues. First Ata Hayrullah was called to the division headquarters where he was tortured and murdered.  His body was hung on a tree and cut into pieces.  His brother was placed under house arrest, where he awaited his own murder.  Their relative, Gani Naqib, who struggled unsuccessfully to prevent Dr. Ehsan Hayrullah’s murder, ended up being cut into pieces with axes along with him.  Their bodies were also taken to Second Division headquarters and hung up in a tree.  These trees, cursed in the eyes of the local population, were later cut down by the mayor of Kirkuk.

Haji Nejim was later slaughtered in front of his family after his eyes were hollowed out.  Two young brothers named Jihad and Nihad were slayed and their 14 year old sister Emel was raped and slaughtered.

Many of the victims, who were Turks of every age, were dragged through the streets behind cars until they died; their dead bodies often tied between two vehicles and stretched until they broke in two.  Some of the relatives of the victims of these killings, witnessing such atrocities succumbed to bouts of madness.  In short, 28 Turkmen were slayed in such dreadful ways as have been here briefly described.

A final evaluation of the Events

There is no doubt that all victims of the 14 July events were Turkmen.  They  were the leaders and the brothers of the Turkmen of Kirkuk. It was the Turkmen houses and property that were plundered and set on fire.  Therefore it would not be fair to judge these events as an action against the people of Kirkuk as a whole;  the aim was to wipe out the Turkmen community in Kirkuk.
…..

The 14 July Massacre seriously damaged relations between the Turkmen and Kurds who had lived together on the same lands for many centuries.  Until today, no Turkmen has intentionally killed a Kurd, simply because they were Kurdish.  So if one would normalize the relations between these two nations, the highest authority of the KDP ought to apologize for the 14 July 1959 events.  Such a step would go a long way in assisting the two nations to live in peace once again.

Note:

Edited by Mustafa Nakeeb

Kerkük Vakfı
 

Of Blood, Oil and Kurdistan, by Joost R. Hiltermann

June 4, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Of Blood, Oil and Kurdistan

By Joost R.Hiltermann

June 2, 2011

As US troops are primed to leave Iraq and the situation
in Iraq’s disputed territories remains unresolved, the likelihood of escalating
tensions along the so-called trigger line increases. While communication and
cooperation between Iraqi army and Kurdish regional guard forces has improved,
they continue to face off across this unmarked line of control, which meanders
through an elongated territory that is rich in ethnic diversity and, by twist
of nature, oil, stretching from the Syrian to the Iranian border. Their tenuous
relationship could come unglued when the US presence in their midst changes
from military to civilian at the end of this year.

Last month, in the latest reminder of how explosive the
situation remains, bombs killed scores in Kirkuk, the city and governorate at
the core of the conflict. Kirkuk’s ethnic communities each have contending
claims to the area’s status: the Kurds wish to attach it to the adjacent
Kurdistan region; the Turkomans would like for it to become a stand-alone
region under neither Baghdad’s nor Erbil’s control; and the Arabs mostly favor
the status quo—a province directly under Baghdad’s rule. In pressing their
claims, demographics—who has the right to live and vote in Kirkuk—have become
the principal battleground. Had oil been absent from the equation, the status
question would have become a good deal less incendiary; the significance of the
area’s ethnic makeup and numbers would largely have faded; and there would have
been no need for the deployment of rival security forces.

Continue Reading Of Blood, Oil and Kurdistan, by Joost R. Hiltermann…

Turkmen fight for identity in Kirkuk

April 19, 2011 at 10:57 am | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Turkmen fight for identity in Kirkuk
 
Iraq‘s third largest ethnic group complain of cultural erosion in disputed city. For the video please click on:

 

http://english.aljazeera.net/video/middleeast/2011/04/2011418194514456402.html

  

Last Modified: 18 Apr 2011 21:42

The third largest ethnic group inIraq, the Turkmen have long complained ofdiscrimination, especially in the city ofKirkuk where the local governmenthas been largely controlled by Kurdish parties.That began to change recently with a Turkmen politician electedas head of the provincial council, but many say more needs to bedone to preserve the Turkmens’ ethnic identity.

Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh reports fromKirkuk.

Tensions in and around Iraq’s Kerkuk ebb and flow, by Joel Wing

April 12, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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 Tensions In And Around Iraq’s Kirkuk Ebb And Flow

Monday, April 11, 2011

For pictures please click on: 

http://musingsoniraq.blogspot.com/2011/04/tensions-in-and-around-iraqs-kirkuk-ebb.html

 Tensions in Iraq’s Tamim province have been on the rise recently. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) decided to deploy peshmerga west of Kirkuk in February to counter demonstrations there. Then a political deal was cut between the Kurdish Alliance and the Turkmen Front to divide up to the two top posts in the governorate, angering the Arabs. Finally, a fight erupted between Turkmen and Kurdish students at a school in Kirkuk. These recent events all express the on-going disputes between the major communities within the governorate.

On April 5, 2011 the Deputy Peshmerga Minister from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced that the peshmerga were withdrawing from western Tamim province, and that their positions would be turned over to the Americans. They are to eventually give way to joint U.S.-Iraqi-Peshmerga checkpoints. The U.S. military and Baghdad negotiated the pullout. The Kurds had actually begun removing their forces on March 28

The peshmerga were deployed to western Tamim on February 24. This was in anticipation of the Day of Rage national protests in Iraq. On February 25 there were violent protests in the towns of Riyadh and Hawija, some of which focused their anger upon the Kurdish presence in the province. The KRG claimed that their forces were in the area to counter terrorists and Al Qaeda who were trying to exploit the demonstrations. The real reason was to suppress further marches. Now that they have subsided, the peshmerga are ready to exit, defusing one major crisis in Tamim.

Continue Reading Tensions in and around Iraq’s Kerkuk ebb and flow, by Joel Wing…

Ban Ki-moon: Sending Peshmarga to Kirkuk was a Mistake

April 6, 2011 at 10:56 am | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Ban Ki-moon: Sending Peshmarga to Kirkuk was a Mistake

image U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-moon.

 

Rudaw, Agencies– U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-moon said that the deployment of Peshmarga forces in Kirkuk was a mistake. 

Presenting a report at the U.N. Security Council Ban Ki-moon said that his organization is concerned about the situation in Kirkuk and the deployment of five thousand Peshmargas in the past two months. 

The secretary general called for a review of the distribution of forces between the Peshmarga, Iraqi army and the Americans in the provinces of Kirkuk, Dyala and Nineveh. Ban Ki-moon said, “The situation in the disputed territories is still uneasy and on the night of February 25th around five thousand Peshmargas had been sent to Kirkuk.” 

The president of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani said at the end of his tour of Europe last month that it was his order to dispatch the Peshmarga to Kikruk to protect the civilians of that area from extremist attacks. But in his report, the U.N. secretary general said that the Peshmarga had been sent without their knowledge and that the Kurdistan Regional Government had only found excuses to send those forces to tackle the threats in the area. “This act,” said Ban Ki-moon, “is a violation of the agreement reached by the security team that was formed in Baghdad to maintain the security of those areas.” 

In his report, the secretary general stated that Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and leaders of Turkmen and Arab parties have asked for the withdrawal of the Peshmarga forces from Kirkuk and to that end negotiations are ongoing.

OPINION: Iraq’s political fallout, by Denise Natali

April 2, 2011 at 2:31 am | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Iraq’s political fallout

 
Posted By Denise Natali Friday, April 1, 2011

Unlike other revolts underway in the Middle East, Iraq’s uprisings have not yet escalated into a large-scale opposition movement by local populations against the central government. Rather, they remain disjointed responses by different groups to distinct local and regional-level problems. Iraqis in southern and central Iraq blame local provincial councils, alongside Baghdad, for lack of services and corruption, while populations in the Kurdish north lodge their complaints against the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Although localized, the uprisings have had important political consequences on the central government and the KRG. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s support base has eroded while the unity of the Kurdistan region has been further undermined. Relations between Baghdad and Arbil also are challenged as each political entity seeks greater control over territory and security it claims to be its own.

Indeed, Iraq seems primed to follow the path of other Middle Eastern states in turmoil. The weak central government is no more responsive to its populations than regimes in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, or Libya. Since 2005, and despite the regeneration of oil revenues, Baghdad has been unable to sufficiently restore electricity, provide basic services, or engage in necessary economic development projects that benefit localities. Iraq also retains its Transparency International ranking as the world’s fourth most corrupt country. Further, Iraqi youth have access to the social media and could mobilize masses the way their counterparts in other countries have done.

Unlike other troubled Middle Eastern states defined by decades of authoritarianism, however, the Baghdad government is relatively new and without a historical trajectory of repression. Even though the morale of democracy is undeveloped or even nonexistent in Iraq, the power-sharing system embedded in the 2005 constitution has checked the re-emergence of dictatorship by disempowering Baghdad and delegating many powers to the provinces. The regionalization of Iraqi politics, which further polarized ethnic and sectarian communities, has encouraged key political problems to be displaced from the central government to regional and local administrations.

Nuri al-Maliki also assured that the opposition would remain localized by keeping the protestors away from each other. During the demonstrations, for instance, he controlled communication services and set up road blocks so that protestors had to walk about five kilometers to reach the central square in Baghdad. These measures may not have deterred the demonstrations, but they shifted them to outlying localities. Residents in Basra, Fallujah, and Ramadi overthrew their provincial governments and burned down public buildings. Gunmen in Tikrit attacked their local government and took hostages. In Anbar, the sheikhs seek to remove the governor, provincial council chairman and operations centers commander.

The unrest has had political fallout in Baghdad. Maliki’s power base has been further undermined as Ayad Allawi and Moqtada al-Sadr have threatened to withdraw support from the government. Even some members of Maliki’s State of Law party have distanced themselves from the prime minister by forming a ‘White Block” in parliament and calling for Maliki’s resignation if the situation does not improve in 100 days. Developing alongside these political rifts is the strengthening of the position of Ayatollah al-Sistani, who has taken credit for the non-violent nature of the demonstrations without really having been involved in them.

As expected, Maliki has responded by trying to control and appease his challengers. While clamping down on protestors, he has promised political reforms and strengthened the state’s distributive function through increased allocation of revenues for public goods and services. Furthermore, he has attempted to co-opt western Sunni Arab tribes by negotiating an amnesty with the “Jihad Reform Group”, an ensemble of five Iraqi resistance groups based in Syria. The tribe’s perception (and distrust) of Maliki as a Shi’a with Iranian backing, as well as its lucrative trade along the border area, will hinder Maliki’s effort to draw Sunni Arab tribes back into the state and to undermine Ayad Allawi’s tribal support base. And even though Maliki has licensed the Sadrists’ “Sit in against Occupiers” demonstration planned for April 9, he needs to assure that the event does not become violent or further erode his fragile government.

Similar events have transpired in the Kurdish north. The protests, which are still ongoing, have not only unleashed populations’ pent-up frustrations with the KRG-party apparatus but also have reinforced fractures in Kurdish politics and society. While most Kurdish populations seek political reform, only those in Sulaimani have had the opportunity and interest to openly challenge KRG and Barzani family power. Political polarization between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) were made evident after the PUK refused the deployment of KDP militia into Sulaimani, which attempted to quell a situation that its KRG partner has proven unable to manage.

New fissures also have emerged between the KRG and its challengers — Kurdish populations it now refers to as “Those Who Do Not Love Kurdistan”. In fact, the entire opposition movement and protests have become highly politicized as old party feuds over leadership and control are intertwined with demands for real political reform. While the KDP and PUK accuse the opposition group, Goran, and demonstrators for being disloyal to Kurdish nationalism, Islamic parties that have joined the protestors in Sulaimani have permitted their mullahs to give sermons referring to the demonstrations as “a jihad against the KRG”. These political tensions have widened the Badinani-Soran rift, or the geographical polarizations between regions, that has evolved alongside the aggrandizement of Barzani-family power and weakening of the PUK since 2006, making the possibility of a truly unified Kurdish government unlikely.

Furthermore, the protests have reaffirmed challenges between Baghdad and Arbil over political authority and territorial claims. During the initial demonstrations, for instance, Kurdish officials refused entry of four-star Iraq generals into a joint Iraqi-KRG peshmerga headquarters in Sulaimani. They also mobilized thousands of Kurdish troops to Kirkuk to securitize the city during and after Iraq’s ‘Day of Rage’, in which non-Kurdish communities raised further concerns by non-Kurdish communities about the KRG’s overextension of its autonomy.

Maliki and Kurdish president Mas’ud Barzani eventually negotiated the peshmerga’s withdrawal; however, Baghdad continues to insist that all Iraqi forces be kept under centralized command while the Kurds assert complete control over their militia. Iraqi President and Kurdish leader Jelal Talabani’s public speech referring to Kirkuk as the “Jerusalem of Kurdistan”, as well as the PUK’s efforts to reshuffle positions on the Kirkuk provincial council to garner Turkoman support, has fueled Arab suspicions of Kurdish intentions in Kirkuk and stirred rivalries between the Kurdish parties.

This impasse between Baghdad and Arbil is just one of several issues that will mark Iraq’s political landscape after the US troop withdrawal. If further mishandled by local and outside actors, it could upset the volatile situation in Kirkuk and intensify local feuds. For this reason, some type of third party monitoring, such as UNAMI (United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq) involvement, may be necessary to help neutralize the situation and prevent the outbreak of local conflict at the trigger line.

Continue Reading OPINION: Iraq’s political fallout, by Denise Natali…

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