Breaking the Kirkuk Deadlock?
Written by Bashdar Pusho Ismaeel
Of all the current issues in
Iraq, the dispute over the oil-rich Kirkuk region
could go a long way in deciding future fortunes of
the “new” Iraq.
Kirkuk was a persistent thorn in the side of the
Iraqi Kurds and Baghdad for many decades and the new
Iraq after the downfall of Saddam Hussein has done
little to change that, in spite of the fact the
stipulations under article 140 of the Iraqi
constitution adopted in 2005 was designed to bring a
democratic solution to the control of Kirkuk once
and for all.
Once the deadline for the implementation of article
140 inevitably passed at the end of 2007 and without
much progress, the UN was tasked with the
responsibility of diffusing tensions, or in the
words of UN special envoy to Iraq, Steffan di
Mistura, stopping the ticking time-bomb.
Bashdar Pusho Ismaeel, senior UK Editor
forward to 2009, after many months of fact finding,
research and analysis, the United Nations Assistance
Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) finally submitted their
detailed report outlining recommendations to Iraqi
leaders on resolving the numerous border disputes,
of which Kirkuk is the most notable.
Kurds have ubiquitously accused Baghdad of dragging
their heels, and heeding to pressure from
neighbouring countries particularly Turkey, who is
naturally unfavourable to seeing Kirkuk’s immense
oil wealth ‘fall into the hands’ of the Kurds.
As tensions have reached a knife-edge between the
Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen, Kirkuk has often been
referred as a touch-paper for the rest of Iraq with
international powers keen to prevent civil war.
Kurdish frustrations are compounded by Baathist
Arabisation policies that saw thousands of Arabs
resettle in the area at the expense of the Kurds and
the changes to the provincial boundaries to dilute
Kurdish population figures.
Now Kurds, who have remained insistent that article
140 is a red line, wait anxiously for resolution of
especially with the US withdrawal plans expected to
gather pace. The exact details of the UN report are
still unclear, whether the suggestions will lead to
an agreement is even more uncertain.
According to KRG Special Representative to the UN,
Dindar Zebari, UN Resolution 1770 and 880 gave the
UN involvement crucial legitimacy which was aided
further by the direct request for “technical”
assistance from Iraqi leaders. “The involvement of
the UN has been a big help to the political process
in Iraq”, remarked Zebari.
According to Zebari, UN recommendations are intended
as a “complete package” that is not designed to
appease one Iraqi group or any neighbouring country.
“UN is providing consultancy, technical and
logistics support, assistance in terms of data, and
other criteria that have to be used to formulate
solutions. So the UN involvement is essentially in
an advisory and consultancy capacity”, stated Zebari
who emphasized from an executive perspective that
the implementation of any solution can only come
from the Iraqi side.
Iraqi leaders now have the opportunity to analyze
the report, based on elements that were officially
requested for the UN to determine, and come up with
their own feedback or recommendations. All four
solutions proposed in the report, however, deal with
Kirkuk as a single unit.
“The UN reports doesn’t say these areas have to part
of a certain authority but may state that according
to criteria that have been used, let’s say
geographical, historical and cultural backgrounds,
previous elections result, the majority of the
certain districts of these areas are supporting
annexation or support to be part of that authority.
does not stipulate that the UN decides,” Zebari
Whether agreements lead to sustainable solutions is
unclear, however Zebari warned that that there must
be more urgency to progress.
Zebari emphasized that from a KRG perspective they
are eager for a quick solution, and are keen for
more compromises amongst all the sides, but moreover
any discussion or solutions must be formulated
around article 140 of a constitution that is
essentially “a package and you can not ignore a part
of that package”, otherwise as Zebari warned, “other
groups or minorities can take other articles out of
As far as the KRG are concerned, “the solution must
be immediate and more urgent, because it affects the
political process and the trust between Iraqis in
this important period of transition.”
According to Zebari, the UN and international
community have a key responsibility in the post-liberalisation
of Iraq and “have a key role in successful
reconciliation, where the current involvement serves
a part of the UN commitment to the political
process”. Zebari underlined that the International
community are committed to the peace and security of
Iraq and still have “a huge responsibility to make
Iraq a success.”
Either way, it remains to be seen whether the UN
stopped the ticking-tomb or simply just delayed its
implementation. The real desire to reconcile,
compromise and enforce democratic principles is down
to Iraqi’s alone. International powers can
facilitate the process but ultimately in Iraq it may
be a case that ‘you can take a horse to a well, but
not make it drink it’.
Bashdar Pusho Ismaeel is a London-based freelance
writer and analyst, whose primary focus and
expertise is on the Kurds, Iraq and Middle Eastern
current affairs. The main focus of his writing is to
promote peace, justice and increase awareness of the
diversity, suffering and at times explosive mix in
Iraq and the Middle East.
Most recently he has produced work for the
Washington Examiner, Asian Times, The Epoch Times,
Asia News, The Daily Star (Lebanon), Kurdish Globe,
Hewler Post, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG),
KurdishMedia, PUK Online and OnlineOpinion.
He has achieved seminar recommended readings for Le
High University (Pennsylvania) and Massachusetts
Institute of Technology. His work has been
republished extensively elsewhere on the Internet.
author or news agency,
Bashdar Pusho Ismaeel,
does not take credit for and is not responsible for the content of news
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