Maliki flexes muscle as he orders
closedown of Kurdistan's KRG representative office
Raber Derayee —
August 17, 2012
Tensions between the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional
Government (KRG) and the central government in
Baghdad were taken to a new height on Wednesday when
authorities in Baghdad closed the office of the KRG
representation in Baghdad at the request of the
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office.
Iraqi officials said the office did not have legal
support to exist in Baghdad. However, Kurdish
officials in Baghdad said the office had the legal
paperwork for the office and that was signed by the
Prime Minister himself.
Yet, it is evident that the closure of the office
was politically motivated and grounded in the recent
tensions between Baghdad and Erbil as the office has
been there for seven years now. The office was set
up in 2006 after a visit by Maliki to the capital of
Kurdistan Region, Erbil, where he agreed with
Kurdish leaders on the opening of the office to
coordinate relations between the two governments.
Mohammed Ihsan, the KRG representative to Baghdad
said that the order they received for the closure of
the office explained that the KRG-Baghdad relations
were directly handled between the two governments
and therefore a KRG representation was not necessary
The closure of the office was quickly condemned by
Kurdish MPs in Baghdad as an "illegal and
unconstitutional" move by Baghdad. Mohsen Sadoun, a
senior member of the Kurdish Blocs Coalition (KBC)
in the Iraqi Parliament said the "The Iraqi
government has to provide explanations for the
decision [closure of KRG office].. this decision was
illegal and unconstitutional… that is an official
office… that has been in Baghdad for seven years."
The timing of Baghdad's action shows the extent to
which Iraq's Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
is upset by KRG attitudes on a number of issues
including oil deals, growing Kurdish-Turkish
relations and KRG support for the rebellion in Syria
against the Shiite minority regime about which Iraq
has kept silent amid regional and international
condemnations and calls on Bashar al-Assad to step
Kurdistan's Oil Deals
Kurdistan Region has continued its oil deals with
world energy giants. Recently the French giant Total
also moved in buying a 35 percent stake in two
exploration blocks in Iraq's Kurdistan region. The
move set off immediate response from the Iraqi
government which has desperately tried to bar
companies from dealing directly with the
The Iraqi government warned Total to cease its
dealings with the KRG or lose its share in a major
oilfield in southern Iraq.
United States Exxon Mobile and Chevron, Russia'
Gazprom are already working in the region.
Also, earlier this month, London-listed Genel Energy
increased its stake in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region
after it acquired a 23 per cent stake in the Bina
Bawi exploration license. The deal was approved by
the KRG and the acquisition was completed at $175
The UK-Turkish firm has interests in seven
exploration and production licenses in the
semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq. Among the
license are two major producing fields; a 25 per
cent stake in the Tawke field, Duhok province, and
44 per cent in the Taq Taq field of Erbil province.
The firm also holds a 25 per cent interests in
Peshkabir, 40 per cent in the Duhok, 18.75 per cent
in Miran, 20 per cent of the Chia Surkh as well, all
of which are located in Duhok province.
What added to Baghdad's rage was that Mehmet Sepil,
the chief executive of Genel Energy said the central
government had lost its energy fight against the KRG
in Arbil. "Let's take a look at companies operating
there currently: Exxon, Chevron, Total and Gazprom.
These are some of the largest oil companies in the
world. What's more, Exxon,www.ekurd.net
Total and Gazprom are also working in Baghdad
[oilfields]. Baghdad says it will put those who
operate in northern Iraq on a blacklist, but the
largest companies in the world are working there.
This issue is over. In addition, Baghdad operates
too slowly, so the oil companies are escaping from
there and moving to the north. The energy fight is
over today. The important question is when Baghdad
will admit this." He said.
Sepil also predicted that Kurdistan "will see a
large consolidation. The number of [oil] companies
in northern Iraq, which is between 40 and 50 today,
will fall to between 10 and 15 in two or three
years," Sepil said, adding that the region has
already proved its potential. What is happening in
northern Iraq is typical, according to Sepil. "First
the small companies penetrate, they find the oil,
and sell [the field] after benefiting from it. Now
this is the process taking place in northern Iraq."
Recent rapprochements between Turkey and Kurdistan
Region have sent waves of resentment across the
Shiite dominated government authorities in Baghdad.
Earlier this month, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet
Davutoglu visited Kurdistan and made a side trip to
Kirkuk, an oil-rich and disputed city which Kurds
have been trying to incorporate into their, angering
the Iraqi government.
The Iraqi government condemned the visit as a
"blatant interference in the Iraqi internal affairs"
and said Davutoglu had violated the sovereignty of
Iraq. Baghdad harshly criticized the Kurdish
government for facilitating the Turkish official's
Kirkuk visit. Baghdad also said it will review
relations with Turkey. And on Aug. 15, the Iraqi
Foreign Ministry denied a Turkish leader, who had
plans to visit Kirkuk, visa into Iraq.
Following the Turkish FM's Kirkuk visit, Baghdad has
been complaining that Turkey treats Kurdistan Region
as independent from Baghdad. Maliki told a Turkish
TV channel that Turkey is "dealing with the
(Kurdistan) region as an independent state, and this
is rejected by us,"
If Turkey "wants to establish good relations, its
relations with the region must be built through the
gate of Iraq," Maliki said.
Kurdistan's support for
While the rest of the world has condemned Bashar al-Assad's
brutal crackdown on civilians in the country, the
Iraqi government has remained silent. Further to
that, the Iraqi government rejected in July an Arab
League call for the Syrian President to step aside
from his post. Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh
said the decision was an intervention in the Syrian
Iraq's rejection to call on Assad to go drew
criticism from the Kurdish leaders in the country.
Spokesperson for the KBC, Moayyed Tayyib, said "What
is happening in Syria is that the regular Syrian
army is committing horrible crimes against the
Syrian people.. And when these horrible crimes are
committed, it is no longer an internal affair in any
The Iraqi government also shut down borders in the
face of fleeing Syrians who sought refuge in Iraq
from the violence in the country and sent army
troops to a border crossing area that was controlled
by the Kurdish Peshmarga forces. The border
crossings were only opened after pressure mounted on
al-Maliki from within the country to provide shelter
for the refugees.
The deployment of troops to the Fish Khabur area on
the Syrian border, in Duhok province, nearly broke
out into a deadly fight between the two forces had
it not been for a US intervention to play down the
The government claimed to have sent the troops to
control the Syrian border to prevent the
infiltration of militants from and into Syria and
also to prevent fleeing Syrian from entering Iraqi
territories. Apparently, Maliki believed that the
Kurdish control of about 15 kilometer long border
line made it possible for Iraqis to smuggle arms and
support into Syria for the opposition forces in
particular the Kurds who had taken over some towns
and districts in the northeastern Syria.
Maliki's military movement came after Kurdistan
Region's President Massoud Barzani said Syrian Kurds
were being trained in Kurdistan and would be sent
home to "defend" their territories.
Raber Younis Aziz, a Kurdish
journalist and blogger from Erbil, the capital of
the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region. He has worked
for AKnews as English News Editor and Managing
A contributing writer
for Ekurd.net. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org,
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