Kirkuk and the Kurdish Failure

December 17, 2013

What happened in Kirkuk last week, where Kurdish parties failed to unite under a single banner ahead of next April’s nationwide legislative elections in Iraq, should not be called anything less than a political scandal.

The failure of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) to cooperate in Kirkuk belies the old Kurdish claims of national unity in policy and strategy.

The two political parties demonstrated that they have no joint plans for the strategic issues that should transcend political party lines.

The PUK and KDP’s conflict over the joint list for Kirkuk ahead of the April 2014 legislative elections indicates that the issue of Article 140 will be delayed a lot more than the people of Kirkuk and other areas were expecting.

While the two parties spend most of their time in campaigns and the media blaming Baghdad for the non-implementation of Article 140, they will have difficulty in continuing to perpetuate the argument that their goal is to bring Kirkuk and other disputed territories into Kurdistan.

It would also be very interesting to hear what the electoral programs of the seven Kurdish Kirkuki lists are going to be if they decide to go to the election separately.

Kurds often blame others for their misfortune and lack of progress on the issues that have taken a long time to settle. But after the Kirkuk saga, their constituents will blame them, too, for their division and for political mismanagement of these national issues.

Almost all other issues that the Kurds will need to settle will require unity and a non-partisan approach. But today, it seems that with every new development the Kurds are moving further apart and the prospects of a united Kurdish policy on external and internal challenges is getting less likely. The parties can easily slip into a tit-for-tat policy on issues.

The formation of the new government in Erbil, the deal with Turkey and relations with Syrian Kurdistan, Iran and Baghdad are all interconnected issues. Each can affect the other. The more issues that the parties disagree on, the wider will be the gap between them. That lessens the likelihood of a united stance and a policy on these issues.

A PUK Central Council member said in an interview that, “had Mam Jalal been around, he would have taken a decision that may not be in the PUK’s interest but it would have been in the general Kurdish interest.”

While the absence of “Mam Jalal” is clearly felt by the PUK and many others, especially at times like these, the other person that they and many others would naturally look to for a solution is “Kak Massoud.”

The ball is now in his court for a settlement that unites the Kurds and puts Kurdish interests before party ones.

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