Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

Mounting Tension between Iraqi Government and KRG

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Mounting Tension between Iraqi Government and KRG

The Kurdish flag on the coffin of the octogenarian former president of Iraq Jalal Talabani triggered a strong wave of protect in Iraqi media and social media. Talabani, the first non-Arab Iraqi president, died Oct. 3 at a hospital in Berlin. He was widely respected as mediator among Shia, Sunni, and Kurds. His death came after Iraq’s Kurds voted 92.7 percent in favor of a split from Iraq in the September 25 referendum the legality of which was rejected by the federal government of Iraq. Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Iraqi central government are on collision course. The Iraqi government has imposed sanctions on Kurdish banks and halted foreign currency transfers to the region, and a flight ban has halted all international flights from servicing the Iraqi Kurdish territory’s airports.
Baghdad has demanded that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) cancel the result of the referendum or face continued sanctions, international isolation, and possible military intervention.
The issue of formal split from Baghdad to form an autonomous Kurdish region was followed by mixed reaction from different countries, mainly the neighboring states. The US, which backed Iraqi government in combating the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), disapproved of the referendum saying it could inflame tension in the region. Similarly, Tehran and Ankara also opposed the referendum. The presidents of Iran and Turkey say their countries will take steps to ensure that borders in the region remain unchanged following last week’s independence referendum in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region. “We will not accept changing borders in the region,” Iranian President Hassan Rohani said in Tehran on October 4 at a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Condemning the vote, Turkey said it was “unacceptable”, and has made threats to stop the supply of oil to the Kurdish region of northern Iraq.
The reaction of Russia – which signed a long-term oil contract with Iraqi Kurdistan’s regional government – to the issue has been rather ambiguous. The main theme in Russian officials’ statements is underlining the necessity of preserving Iraq’s territorial integrity while at the same time not denouncing the Kurdish bid for independence. On Sept. 27, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Moscow “respects the rights of Kurds but supports Iraqi unity and territorial integrity.”
However, Israel is the only country that has supported Kurdish independence. Erdogan has even threatened to halt relations with Israel over the Kurdish issue.
The United Nations has offered to help “solve the problem” between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Region.
Calls for Kurdish independence had been going on for years, with an unofficial 2005 referendum resulting in 98% voting in favor of independence. These longstanding calls gained impetus following the Northern Iraq offensive by ISIL group during the Iraqi Civil War in which Baghdad-controlled forces abandoned some areas, which were then taken by the Peshmerga.
The recent political tension between Iraqi government and Kurdistan region and their split will put an adverse effect on Iraq’s stability. At this critical juncture, Iraqi nation need unity and strength more than ever before. In other words, Shiite, Sunni, and Kurds will have to extend the spirit of brotherhood and be cautious not to pave the ground, through fomenting sectarian tension, for the resurgence of the ISIL group or their militancy.
It is believed that ISIL is still a potential threat for Iraqi nation and state and the militants will continue their terrorist acts the same as the Taliban are doing in Afghanistan. That is to say, the fall of the Taliban’s regime was deemed as a death knell for the militants, but the Taliban fighters resurfaced and now carry out deadly attacks against Afghans. Iraq is in the same boat. Although the regime of Saddam Hussein was collapsed, insurgency did not end in Iraq. The gap among the three mentioned sects was the main reason behind the establishment of ISIL group which fomented sectarian violence under the mask of religion and imposed great sufferings on Iraqi nation in general and Yazidi women in particular.

For a stable Iraq, negotiation is the only viable option to end the issue. Both sides have to be united and build a strong nation. Iraqi people are still highly at the mercy of terrorist attacks and lose their lives in suicide bombings on daily basis. The split will debilitate Iraqi government and widen the gap between sects. To mitigate regional conflicts, the world must mediate talks between the two sides and resolve the issue peacefully. Otherwise, the entire region will be affected in some ways. Secondly, the split is against the Iraq’s Constitution. So, all Iraqis including Kurds will have to respect the law. Constitutionally, split is illegal and Iraqi government is right to prevent from breaking the law.

Hujjatullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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