Kurdish Unity – How Important is it Today?

June 7, 2012

The Kurds today are going through a dilemma.

On one hand, some of them are gathering signatures to topple Maliki. On the other, they are talking about the unity of the Kurdish house. The message they are sending is quite contradictory, and is linked to what they want for the future. If the aim is a federal, democratic and pluralistic Iraq, then it should not matter whether the Kurdish house is united or not.

A vision for the future of Iraq and the way it is ruled should be the decisive factor for who is for or against removing the PM.

Soon, the Kurds may decide that recent developments in the Iraqi crisis mean they do not have to place importance on whether they are united or not. The current crisis over the leader of Iraq may allow them to appear at least like Iraqi players who care about where the country is heading.

Although signatures are being collected for a vote of no confidence against Maliki, it is still not clear what the final number will be or how things will play out once the process reaches parliament. Hence some in the pro-Maliki camp welcome a general referendum on whether he stays or goes, because to them it still looks like a Kurdish attempt to destabilize Iraq that others have joined.

It is clear today that in order to topple Maliki, the Shia voice is needed in addition to Sunni and Kurdish voices, and it may be necessary to sacrifice Kurdish unity for the purpose of removing Maliki. As things stand, the Shias are split; so are the Sunnis over Maliki. The only group that is undecided is the Kurdish one.

Often, Kurdish leaders talk about the unity of Kurds everywhere, but the recent crisis may prove that Kurds cannot be united in everything. If the priority is to remove Maliki, then it would be better if Kurds are split into different fronts on the decision. This will make it easier for other blocs to split — not along sectarian or ethnic lines, but along political ones, where the number of seats from every party is decisive, not their identity.

The current crisis highlights how Kurds cannot afford to be united on every issue. Starting with the formation of the government in Baghdad, to Barzani’s veto over Gorran’s participation in the government, to the recent discussion over removing Maliki — all these events demonstrate the difficulty of staying united if you do not have a clear sense of direction.

In the past, the question was whether the Kurds were spectators or players in the new Iraq. Later, the question became whether they were negotiators or partners. In both cases, the Kurds were asked to be active players in Baghdad and partners in its rule, and in both cases the Kurds could not practically be united on all of the issues.

In any event, the emphasis on the unity of the Kurdish house comes from a time when the Kurds were under the threat of genocide and extinction. With all the negatives of the new Iraq, these threats at least are not there today.

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