A 42-Year-Old Dream

March 14, 2012

The 42nd anniversary of March 11 symbolizes the journey Kurds have been through and the degree of progress, or lack of it, insofar as Kurdish rights and their status in Iraq are concerned.
Despite its failure, the agreement of March 11, 1970 is an important historical reference for the Kurds’ status in Iraq, in addition to the constitution of Gen. Abdulkarim Qasim in 1958 and the current constitution voted for by the majority of the people of Iraq in 2006.
Although the two previous historic events, in 1958 and in 1970, were achieved without major Kurdish sacrifice in comparison to today, they highlight the need for a different approach to Kurdish demands, relations with Baghdad and the Kurds’ regional and international status.
Both previous historical occasions went through a cycle of celebration, euphoria and then failure as a result of Baghdad’s lack of commitment and the high expectation of Kurds.
Also, importantly, the issue remained purely internal for Kurds while neighbors viewed these agreements and recognition as a threat or did not care if they failed or were upheld.
Despite the fact that the current constitution guarantees a partner status for the Kurds in Iraq, was voted for by the people and the current government is an elected one, the Kurds should look at this recurring pattern and work to prevent another negative outcome in the current relationship with Baghdad.
Just as in the past, the current government does not seem to believe in what is in the constitution for the Kurds. Many statements from Baghdad point clearly to this. The feeling that one gets from talking to people in the Baghdad political establishment is that “the Kurds are getting a lot more than what they deserve.” This is also reflected in the popular Arab view of the Kurds.
The Kurds must extend their outreach and public relations in Baghdad, beyond key members of government and parliament. They need public support for the implementation of the constitution and the realization of their demands.
At these historic junctures, the issues were similar to those in the current state of affairs: disputed territories, the status of the Peshmarga and partnership in government and the economy, be it revenue sharing, oil production or the budget. The other common element in almost all negotiations and talks with Baghdad since the 1960s is that they involve the same Kurdish leadership or its continuation.
In Baghdad, however, the three historic junctures happened at the hands of three different governments.
Hence it is not difficult for Baghdad to convince anyone that the defect is either in the demands or in the negotiating party. The Kurds should work on explaining their demands and their fairness to the outside world and to the people of Iraq.
Because right now, the Iraqi government says that the Kurds are maximalists and want to partition Iraq. The Kurdish response to that so far has been quite weak and still lives in a 42-year-old dream.

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