The formation of the Dijla Operations Command is yet another indication of Maliki’s inability to solve problems and his lack of vision for doing so through diplomatic or political means.
It also indicates his lack of interest in the talks being held between Baghdad and Erbil and in any real rapprochement between Kurds and Arabs.
Since 2003, the Kirkuk situation, and that of the other disputed areas, has been extremely delicate and an issue that all parties have handled with care. Almost all decisions about the disputed areas and security arrangements concerning them have been conducted with consensus between the various parties involved — the KRG, Baghdad and the U.S.
After the U.S. withdrawal, and just like with the Hashimi case, Maliki seems to have the disputed areas portfolio in mind and wants to take control of it in his own way.
The disputed areas were supposed to be handled by agreement from both sides. But this did not last. With complete disregard to the fact that the disputed areas issue cannot be solved by military means, Maliki resorted to setting up the Dijla forces.
While he is trying to gain popular Arab support, this behavior poses a greater threat to Arabs than to Kurds. It militarizes their communities further, and creates another arm for the prime minister who is growing obsessed with having direct military and security control over many issues.
But the Arabs of Iraq are supportive of the step, and it feeds into the anti-Kurdish campaign.
This makes the Kurdish task harder. They need to assess the real potentials of the issue and act according to a coordinated plan at every level — in Kirkuk, in Baghdad and in the region. They need to demonstrate to others that, although this act appears to be against the Kurds, it actually affects others more.
The Dijla forces could also create potential local military complications as it will be seen as a force that bypasses the army, the police and the Peshmerga, and in these situations there are many who will try to prove that it is a failure at the expense of local stability and security.
This dangerous game that Maliki is trying to play in Kirkuk indicates his political recklessness and lack of interest and skill to settle disputes through political means. It also reveals his inability to see who his real allies and enemies are by trying to create a pressure card in the talks with Erbil.
The creation of the Dijla forces adds another layer of complication to the political scene by a prime minister who is supposed to provide leadership and settle issues at times of crisis.