Give the Kurds a real stake in Baghdad’s government, only then they dispense the separation plea. Right now, they are imitating honorary positions without authority. The same applies to many components of the Iraqi state, which was built post the invasion. It was built on a shared parliamentary system.
Almost each and every country in the region opposes any territory’s separation, as such, Kurdistan’s separation will not be easy. There is increased fear that the central Iraqi authority, along with Iran and Turkey, will wage a war against the Kurdish ‘state.’ This is especially after 92 per cent of the Kurds in Kurdistan supported the separation. Separation is a long and dangerous political road, it includes military confrontations and a painful economic blockade. Nevertheless, the Kurds are determined, even if they hold back a little now, they will pursue it. The reason why the Kurds’ project is worrisome is because the rest of Iraq’s provinces and governorates are divided by separatist ideas that will eventually lead to the end of Iraq as we know it. A Iraq we have known since 1920 – one whose borders were set by the British and French.
Solutions exist – if and only if there is a sincere intention to stop the separation that threatens to destroy Iraq and the region. The political forces in Baghdad should grant the Kurds the powers and guarantees that they are partners in government, not just a memorial image. If that happens, the justifications will end. The Kurds, like the rest of the Iraqi forces on which the new Iraq project was based, were marginalized and eliminated by the governing partners, whom belonged to other Iraqi parties and individuals. This was done after the Americans departed, the guarantors of the political project.
Baghdad is the capital of the entire state and is supposed to be run by all groups representing the country to reflect the governance project the Americans designed. A shared governance system. The imbalance began in former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s era, under whom the government’s powers were seized and power in Maliki’s office was reduced. After that, the parties, which have armed presence in Baghdad, imposed their demands. The capital has since been ruled by armed militias, backed by Iran, who was successfully able to legitimize them under the popular crowd’s banner. Similarly, there are religious references that some are trying to impose as a political reference. Now, the religious reference’s fatwa (a religious edict) or opinion precedes the parliamentary vote and government decisions.
Value of legislative institution?
What is the value of the state’s legislative institutions, such as the parliament, if it is incompetent, and the Supreme Court is subject to the wishes of the political leaders, while the current government cannot impose its decisions when opposed by parties supported by armed sides?! In this perspective, why do we expect the Kurds and any other political group to commit themselves to a state without identity or full powers? This is why the Iraqi state, not only the government, needs to reform its status through supporting its legal authority, respecting its constitution and pledging to treat everyone equally under its law. Iraq must not simply chase after ISIS and separatists in Kurdistan.
During war years against terrorism, the slogan was that the Iraqi state would not allow anyone to carry arms other than its military establishment, and that it would not accept any territory or governorate to be run by illegal groups. Wars were launched under this promise. Anbar and Salah al-Din provinces were cleansed, and Mosul was liberated, including many others. But in southern and central Iraq, state authorities weakened. The head of the popular crowd became more important than the prime minister, and al-Malki voiced his opposition and incitement of the president to the vice president. Consequently, they weakened the state until the Kurds decided that there was no point in pursuing the state, as such it was time for independence.
To stop the separation conflict, give the Kurds real powers, not theatrical acting roles. This will also stop the ongoing conflicts among some Sunni Arabs in Anbar and some Shiites in Basra – who are awaiting Kurdistan’s separation so they can ignite their own fight. Unless Baghdad is a state for all Iraqis, the schisms will not stop.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.
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