Did Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki get what he wanted out of his rare visit to Erbil?
The symbolism of the visit was an important icebreaker after the visit of Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani to Baghdad last month. But the results of Maliki’s visit do not appear very fruitful.
During Barzani met with Maliki in Baghdad, agreements were signed on a number of issues. At the time, the skeptics among us hoped the agreements would go behind just the usual signing ceremonies, and that they should be followed by immediate practical steps outlined in the deals. But very little actually appears to have been done since then, except preparing for Maliki’s visit.
Meeting with the Kurdish Cabinet and regional President Massoud Barzani, were important steps, and good symbolic follow ups of the Nechirvan visit. But at the news conference, reporters did not learn much about the concrete action points that would result from the agreements.
As an observer I was waiting to hear about at least one step in the direction of solving any of the four main issues between Erbil and Baghdad. Instead, general positive words were uttered about general principles.
The only concrete outcome of the visit was the formation of joint committees “to study the issues” between Erbil and Baghdad. But what about the findings of these committees? Why has no one ever told the public when it can expect to hear the findings of these committees?
By the look of things, Maliki needed this visit more than the Kurds. The Premier is facing a number of problems, including an Sunni uprising and protests, and problems with other parties and groups.
After the meetings in Erbil, Maliki no more seemed like someone with a problem with the Kurds. He seems to have gotten what he wanted out of the visit: neutralizing the Kurds.
For the Kurds, it is important that the positive mood of the visit does not overshadow the real issues.
The next meeting between Barzani and Maliki will be held in Baghdad. The results from that will test the seriousness of the two sides in resolving their problems. The two sides, especially the Kurds, should be prepared to announce concrete steps and decisions following the next meeting in Baghdad.