Kurds will not be deceived by the new rule in Baghdad

By Arian Mufid:

Haidar Abadi, new Iraq prime minister

Haidar Abadi, new Iraq prime minister

The main blame for today’s disaster in Iraq lies with former prime minister Nuri Maliki and his hostile policies towards the Kurds and Sunni Arabs. The terrible price of his sectarian rule was the explosive rise of IS which has in turn forced Mailiki to stand down. After several weeks of negotiating, a new Iraq government has been formed under the premiership of Haidar Abadi. It includes Sunnis and Kurdish representatives who have attached several conditions to their participation. The Kurds have given the Abadi government three months to implement Article 140 and for a joint resolution of the issues around oil and gas.

Those at the heart of the new Baghdad government knew they could not get international backing unless they extended a hand to the Kurds and Sunnis. The Kurds know that their immediate priority is to defeat IS, which has come to their doorstep, and that this requires agreement with Baghdad. However, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has long experienced broken promises and agreements by previous Iraqi governments. The unity of Iraq cannot be maintained as long as the old sectarians remain in control – for example Maliki, as a new deputy president, has not disappeared from government.

The US was so keen to forge this forced marriage between the three partners of Iraq that it sent a high-ranking delegation to the city of Suli to meet with the Kurdish political parties and encourage them to accept Baghdad’s offers and participate in the central government. It was a mistake by the Iraqi government not to grant greater autonomy for Kurdistan, even though greater autonomy is a highway to separation. It was a mistake for the KRG not to spell out more clearly to the people what have been the benefits and disadvantages of their relationship with Baghdad over the past decade. Kurdish leaders are rightly more cautious this time, and they are not giving unlimited support to the Abadi government. Ordinary Kurds appreciate that they need Baghdad to facilitate their fight against IS; otherwise nothing can be achieved in the long run. But while Kurds are moving ahead tactically, they also need a clear strategy.

Kurds cannot place long-term trust in Baghdad’s intentions but this does not mean they are not sincere and serious about cooperating with the new central government. The problems lie with Baghdad.

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