A Different Delegation in Baghdad

October 26, 2012

Another delegation is in Baghdad, but this time there is a difference. It follows a long period of crisis that nearly toppled Maliki, had him attempting to threaten the region, and had neighbors interfering in favor of one side or the other. The new delegation in Baghdad now knows that relations between the two cities are key to stability in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.

The delegation is led by Dr. Barham Salih, a seasoned politician and negotiator who has proved in the past that one of his best skills lies in operating in Baghdad. His presence in the delegation will be instrumental in understanding the ever-changing political map of Baghdad and paving the way for real, hands-on, nuts and bolts negotiations to take place about the issues that keep surfacing between the two cities.

He is also capable of creating the correct framework for managing relations between Erbil and Baghdad instead of a fluctuating one that changes at the whim of politicians and their statements.

So far, indications have been encouraging that things are heading in the right direction, where the conflict is depoliticized and negotiations are conducted professionally. This is necessary to reach a settlement between the cities and adopt a process to settle the outstanding issues between them.

The process needs to be binding, politically-backed and professional. Although Dr. Barham’s visit is a good ice breaker, it needs to be supported by other political parties regardless of whether they attended the meeting of the president or not. Dr. Barham’s next task will be to try to bring the opposition into the fold of wanting a settlement with Baghdad.

For this to happen, the findings of the meeting and the process of negotiating with Baghdad can be discussed in parliament. This will give the process inclusivity and take it out of the context of personal conflict.

This is particularly important without a high council for relations with Baghdad. The reasons this has not been established have not been provided yet. The current delegation may have to fill this role until a team is formed that has full knowledge of the outstanding issues.

But the key to moving things forward is the political will to have a stable relationship between the two cities. The way things are now, relations with Baghdad have been reduced to the question of whether Maliki should be removed or not, or whether he is behaving as an autocratic ruler of the country.

Although it is too early to tell, it seems from initial statements that Dr. Barham’s meetings have had positive results, and the challenge now is to capitalize on this positive atmosphere and turn it into an ongoing stable process away from personal politics.

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