Kurds: In A Battle That Is Not Theirs

July 11, 2012

In football, when there is a coordinated attack to score a goal, the defenders try to take the ball. If they can’t gain possession, they kick the ball off the field to give themselves time to reorganize and better defend their goal.

Dr. Ibrahim Jaafari’s paper to reform the government, in lieu of attempts to overthrow Maliki, is a similar tactic. The steps that Jaafari outlines are all points that don’t address the relationship between Baghdad and Erbil, or at least its immediate steps are not designed to meet Kurdish demands.

The call to appoint security ministers is an Iraqi issue, indirectly related to Kurdistan. The issue is between Iraqiya and the Shia Alliance and the Kurds will have to get into a fight that is not really theirs. By the time it comes to Kurdish demands, Maliki will say, “I gave you a lot!” And it will look that way too, in the eyes of the Arab media and the public.

The other quick measure that Jaafari calls for is an end to corruption in government departments. This also has nothing to do with Kurdish demands. In fact, it works against them because their government departments are no less corrupt than Baghdad’s.

Despite conflicting views over this issue, some in Erbil say that, although there is corruption, there is also work and services delivered to the public. In Baghdad, some say at least there is more accountability there than in Erbil. The Kurds will get into this kind of argument once the corruption file is opened.

Jaafari also puts on hold a number of issues that concern the Kurds and says they are not possible to solve. These include the federal council and the bylaws of the Council of Ministers, and of course Article 140 and the federal relationship between Erbil and Baghdad.

Jaafari’s paper asks for “dialogue” — in other words, not withdrawing confidence from Maliki. He also suggests a time limit on settling issues, including long-term issues, which puts the Kurds back at square one.

Currently, the Kurds are in a lose-lose situation. Both long- and short-term issues described by Jaafari hamper the political process.

The short-term ones are Iraqiya’s demands and the long-term ones are Kurdish ones.

The Kurds should be aware that they are not only not considered partners in the new Iraq, but are being branded as the anti-Maliki camp. They should be aware that their alliance with Iraqiya is not getting them anywhere.

The reform proposal should be revised and used as an opportunity to normalize and institutionalize Kurdish relations with Maliki and the Alliance, and assume the role of a partner who stands at an equal distance from all and has the interest of all Iraqis, including his own, in mind.

Otherwise, it is only a matter of time before Iraqiya strikes its own deal with Maliki and the Kurds are left alone. Because if Maliki applies Jaafari’s short-term reform steps, the bulk of Iraqiya will be on his side.

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