Leaving the fate of Kirkuk to fuzzy
democracy while Maliki taunts the Kurds
By Bashdar Ismaeel
May 18, 2012
Iraq has been gripped by a grave political crisis
for several months and there appears little intent
on the part of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malik's
government to soothe tensions by working towards
national reconciliation and resorting to
Maliki spearheaded an Iraqi Council of Ministers
meeting on May 8th, in the Kirkuk
province, which inflamed already tense relations
with the Kurdistan Regional Government.
Such an assertive and brazen move by Maliki shows he
is willing to stand up and defy the Kurds despite
fierce warning by Kurdistan President Massoud
Barzani in recent months.
In the face of this development, Kurdistan can
remain silent at its own peril. While Barzani has
been vociferous both at home and abroad regarding
the centralist tendencies of Maliki and the rapid
drive towards Iraq's collapse, the Patriotic Union
of Kurdistan and other opposition figures have been
much more passive in contrast.
The issue of Maliki's authoritarian tendencies, lack
of implementation of constitutional articles and his
show of strength by strolling around disputed
territories, is pertinent to the whole of Kurdistan
and every Kurdish faction must unite and take a
Stoking of hostilities in
The timing and significance of the ministerial
meeting, the first of its kind in Kirkuk, is no
coincidence. The move by Baghdad was designed to be
provocative in nature and highlight clearly to the
Kurdish leadership that the identity of Kirkuk is
Iraqi and Baghdad's dominance is far-reaching.
Obviously, people will be quick to point out that
Kirkuk is already part of Iraq but it's the identity
of the city that Maliki is emphasizing. In simple
terms, he will not allow Kirkuk to become a
Maliki's statements, which failed to mention the
Constitution, is in contrast to Article 140 and
principles that formed the blueprint of the country.
It is not for anyone to decide the fate of Kirkuk
but the inhabitants themselves,www.ekurd.net
this includes Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens and not
specifically one group.
A constitution is the genetic framework of any
country, it is the basis by which governments rule
and laws are devised. However, in Iraq, many
articles continue to gather dust on the political
shelf and constitutional laws are bypassed all too
The implementation of Article 140 is not only
significant for Kirkuk but for the whole of Iraq. If
Article 140 is bypassed then effectively, the whole
Constitution is bypassed. Without implementation of
all articles that make up the Constitution or
adherence to constitutional principles, then Iraq is
Battle for Kirkuk
Kirkuk has been a key symbol of Kurdish history and
identity for thousands of years -- long before the
discovery of oil, the fall of the Ottoman Empire or
the rise of Arab nationalism.
It has been a historic red line for Kurdistan and to
forgo claim to Kirkuk now would be akin to betraying
Kurdish legacy, its martyrs and the immense
sacrifices Kurds have made.
Of all the Kurdish cities, Kirkuk clearly suffered
the most under Baathist rule. Harsh repression and
Arabization policies saw the forced deportation of
thousands of Kurds. Kurds were forced to abandon
their heritage and succumb to Arab domination in the
Ironically, it is now the Arabs who complain of been
treated badly. Returning Kurds who seek to reclaim
their historical and legal rights are now the ones
outreaching. If Baghdad wants to truly entice the
Kurds, turn a new page and is sincere about the
principles of union with the Kurds, Kirkuk is the
first and only place to start.
Unfortunately, it is appearing ever likely that
Article 140 will not be implemented unless
sentiments in Baghdad drastically change, which
looks like a more unrealistic hope by the day. The
implementation of Article 140 is overdue by almost
five years, which tells its own story.
Furthermore, provincial elections in Kirkuk, and
importantly a national a census, have long been
delayed by Baghdad. A census is akin to a de facto
referendum on disputed territories, if the
demography of Kirkuk shows the Kurds as a majority
then it once again only confirms the Kurdish
identity of the province.
Baghdad clearly acknowledges that implementation of
Article 140 would result in its return to Kurdistan.
But one cannot pick and choose democracy as one sees
fit. Baghdad cannot refuse to implement a referendum
only because it fears its inevitable outcome.
Kurdistan's next steps
The patient waiting game played by the Kurdish
leadership clearly has not worked. If Kurds had gone
with instincts at the time and unilaterally annexed
Kirkuk in 2003, then the issue of the status of
Kirkuk would be a foregone conclusion.
Kurds adopted politics and democracy to resolve
disputed territories when clearly Baghdad and Arab
nationalists were not ready and did not have the
stomach for such motions.
Kurdistan needs to be unequivocal in any
negotiations in Baghdad -- the time for mere threats
and rhetoric is long gone. If Article 140 is not
implemented, then the Kurds should back out of
Baghdad altogether and hold a unilateral referendum
on the city and annex the region.
The Kurdish opposition parties, and particularly the
PUK, have lacked the punch in raising concerns over
Maliki. As KRG-Baghdad relations plunge to new lows,
the confrontation will only intensify. This requires
all Kurdish parties to unite in Kirkuk, in the
Kurdistan Region and in Baghdad.
According to the Constitution, Kirkuk's identity is
disputed, therefore the KRG has an equal say on the
province as Baghdad on political, social and
economic issues. The Kurds should hold a KRG Council
of Ministers meeting in Baghdad in the same way.
Maliki is clearly showing the Kurds the extent of
his power in Iraq and intimidating the Kurds by
demonstrating his reach within Iraq. The Kurds need
to take action as much as rhetoric to show that
Kirkuk remains a Kurdistani city and remains
directly in their sphere of influence.
According to a statement, Maliki had quoted "The
problem of Kirkuk cannot be resolved by force and
interference, but by the will of its people and by
keeping its Iraqi identity." This in itself is
contradictory. You cannot adhere to the will of the
people and insistent on an identity at the same time
-- it's the will of the people and voices of the
masses that determine the identity.
Kirkuk having a Kurdish majority does not mean to
deny the Arabs and Turkmen populations. Their rights
should be closely guarded in any eventuality but as
the referendum will highlight, and as history and
geography clearly proves, Kirkuk is a Kurdish city.
Many Iraqi cities, such as Mosul, contain large
Kurdish minorities so it can clearly work both ways.
Maliki's ulterior motive
Not only did Maliki intend to make a show of
strength to the Kurds, but his move in Kirkuk, where
Sunni Arab nationalism is rife, was designed to
reach out and appease Sunni blocs. The Arab
nationalist card against the Kurds has long been
used to bridge the sectarian divide in Iraq.
The leaders of Arab parties, who strongly reject
Article 140, were clearly jubilant at Maliki's visit
and hailed its significance. Kirkuk has been largely
neglected by Baghdad with the people suffering from
a lack of security, employment, investment and poor
public services. The Sunnis have suffered a great
deal under recent Shiite domination, but clearly
sentiments can be fickle as Sunnis were suddenly
quick to praise Maliki.
If Sunni's want what's best for Kirkuk, then they
should made strong demands from Maliki to improve
security and the crumbling standard of living.
At the same time, if Maliki really wanted to improve
conditions in Kirkuk, then he should have insisted
on initiatives to improve services. If Maliki wants
to entice Kurds in Kirkuk, then he could have
reassured them on Article 140 and highlighted their
tragic past as a reason to build new bridges in
In addition to the Kurds, influential Shiite cleric
Moqtada al-Sadr, and other key Shiite groups
critical of Maliki's policies, have backed Maliki
into a corner. However, Maliki is manipulating the
sectarian divide and using all his manipulative
tendencies and experience in clinging to power in
Baghdad to fight his corner.
Bashdar Pusho Ismaeel is a London-based freelance
writer and analyst, a regular
contributing writer for ekurd.net website. Ismaeel 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.
He is a longtime contributing writer for Ekurd.net. You may reach the author via email at:
First appeared on: Kurdish Globe
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