The KRG’s main challenges in 2014

By Kamal Chomani & Sarkawt Shamsulddin:

Nechirvan Barzani

One challenge is that the KRG premier (currently Nechirvan Barzani) does not control the security forces

2014 will be a challenge for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)  because people are expecting radical reforms from the new cabinet which should have already been formed; and people will not not accept anything less than a different and much improved governance from previous cabinets in which accountability, justice and transparency MUST be guaranteed.

The KRG’s main challenges in 2014 are a long list and here we will try to summarize the major ones.

Forming a new broad-based government is a challenge, yet the KRG has not overcome it. It should have already been formed as the elections were held 169 days ago. The challenge of a coalition government in Kurdistan refers to the fact that the result of the recent Parliamentary Elections in Kurdistan has changed the traditional bipartisan political division of a fifty-fifty parliament seats distribution between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The challenge is to deal with the PUK’s reduced popularity based on the election in which got 18 percent, rather than the de facto situation that the PUK controls 50% of the KRG’s income and security forces. In addition, the KDP and PUK need to accept Gorran as a new partner with whom they share control over the KRG’s politics, revenue, and security  – control which they have monopolized and divided between themselves for more than two decades.

Three Main Disputes With Federal Government

The long unresolved disputes with central government remain as one of the key challenges for the KRG. As the beginning of this year has shown, the KRG has so far not been able to win the conflicts.

The three main disputes with central government concern control of oil revenues, the disputed areas and the Peshmerge forces.

The KRG is now in the midst of conflict over controlling the oil revenues. The recent threats of Masoud Barzani, Kurdistan region’s president, shows his frustration against Premier Nouri Al-Maliki. As Iraq goes towards parliamentary elections, Maliki may not compromise on any of his demands. Iran’s support for Maliki and its role in the conflict is to weaken Barzani in order to limit  Turkey’s hegemony over Kurdish politics. As a result the KRG is facing a financial crisis mainly because of budget-cutting by Baghdad and its continuous deficit in government spending.

PUK-KDP Regional Divisions

In the meantime, the KRG’s non-transparent oil policies has left Barzani isolated in the conflicts with Maliki. Recently, Gorran leaders criticized Barzani over his statements against Baghdad, arguing that they will complicate the outstanding issues and increase anxieties among the people. The PUK, Barzani’s ‘strategic partner’, has also not shown its support for Barzani’s statement against Baghdad. Apparently, the PUK’s relations with Baghdad, and especially with PM Al Malki, are in a better shape. Without a consensus between the major political parties in Kurdistan, the KRG’s efforts to convince Baghdad about the oil revenue will not be fruitful.

Disputed Areas, Ambiguous Future

The future of the disputed areas defined under Article 140 of the Iraq Constitution remains unclear. More than 10 years after the liberation of Iraq, the KRG has failed in pressuring the central government to implement Article 140, which should have been implemented by the end of 2007. Kirkuk and the other disputed areas are still not part of Kurdistan. Moreover, the KRG’s influence over Kirkuk and its outskirts is declining. The KRG and the Kirkuk Governor have been unsuccessful in maintaining stability in the city, while terrorist organizations have increased their activities in the city more that ever and the Iraqi Army’s presence in the disputed areas has also been amplified.

Peshmerge, Undefined Status

The conflicts between Baghdad and Erbil over the status of Peshmerge have not been resolved yet. The KRG has failed to oblige Baghdad to supply Peshmerge Forces as part of Iraqi National Forces as has been require by the Iraqi Constitution. Baghdad, in turn, refuses to supply these forces as their movements are not controlled by Federal Government. On the other hand, the KRG has not unified all the Peshmerge forces under the umbrella of the Ministry of Peshmerge. The PUK and KDP still control the bulk of these forces through their politburos which has caused them to remain as unorganized and militia-type forces, endangering the political system in Kurdistan.

Unifying Security Forces

The security forces’ status is almost the same as that of the Peshmerge forces. Even though the KRG has found a loophole to claim in theory that the PUK’s Zaniyari Foundation and the KDP’s Parastin Foundation and Anti-Terror institutions have all been unified, in reality on the ground all of these intelligence forces are working separately: the KDP Asayish cannot work in the PUK zone, and viceversa. This is a major challenge for the KRG as these KDP and PUK intelligence forces are not under the command of the premier. In the meantime, people do not consider these forces as national forces, rather they recognize them as KDP and PUK forces to protect partisan and family interests, not the nation’s.


Corruption is a serious and killer disease which has been spread to all the fields of society and every joint of the governance. Corruption has not been tackled from the top. The corruption reports that come out from the media or  parliament have not resulted in any serious investigations by the state. None of the high officials who have been accused of corruption have been brought before the courts. KDP and PUK companies are working above the government. The most serious kind of corruption relates to the oil income. The KRG has not yet been transparent about this. In this circumstance, the KRG may not want to reveal the truth about the oil income, although this has been a main demand of the people for some time.


The prospects for KRG survival in 2014 are associated with its strategies in handling these issues. Otherwise an escalation in the crisis, postponement of reforms, lack of financial transparency and failure to fulfill the minimum demands of the voters might lead to unexpected outcomes such as region-wide civil disobediences, inflation, and a decline in growth and increasing unemployment. The Iraqi national elections might be an opportunity for the KRG to find new partners and form new alliance in the Iraqi parliament, but further delay in forming the new KRG cabinet may weaken its position with Baghdad.

There are no comments yet. Be the first and leave a response!

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Trackback URL