[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Kirkuk city
Shafaq News/ The European Council on Foreign Relations Institute confirmed that the recent escalation in the disputed city of Kirkuk reveals structural tensions within the government coalition in Baghdad, warning that this tension raises the risk of intervention by Turkey and Iran that would spark instability on a broader scale in Region.
The European report, translated by Shafaq News Agency, explained that Kirkuk had been, throughout the past century, a place of ethnic tension, and continued, saying that since the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 in particular, control of the disputed oil-rich governorate, inhabited by Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen, was one of the The most controversial and destabilizing issue in the country.
The report pointed out that, while the Kurdistan Region asserts that Kirkuk should be part of the regions of the region, the Iraqi constitution stipulates the necessity of determining the status of Kirkuk through a referendum after conducting a population census, but that has not happened yet, indicating that after the failure of the party’s referendum The Kurdistan Democratic Party gained independence. In September 2017, the central government in Baghdad placed Kirkuk under its direct control.
However, the report indicated a recent escalation of hostilities after the sudden decision taken by Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Shia al-Sudani last month to allow the Kurdistan Democratic Party to resume control of its political offices and military base in the city of Kirkuk, a decision that sparked protests from Arab and Turkmen residents, and then counter-protests from The Kurdish population accepted, as 4 people were killed in the unrest, prompting the Federal Supreme Court to stop implementing the decision.
The report saw these events as highlighting the dangers of Kirkuk's unresolved situation, which could be exacerbated by the upcoming local elections in December, and the spillover of tensions into neighboring Turkey and Iran, which have Kurdish populations, which will exacerbate the regional turmoil.
According to the European report, the events that took place in Kirkuk reflect the ethnic divisions that may paralyze the movement of Iraq, indicating that this country is governed by a complex network of alliances that the Sudanese must navigate in order to be able to maintain the continuity of his coalition government.
After the report described Kirkuk as "the Achilles' heel of every Iraqi leader since 2003," it pointed out that the federal government had managed, until recently, to avoid any major escalation in tensions after regaining control over it from the Kurdistan Regional Government in 2017.
In this context, he pointed to Al-Sudani’s “relatively effective” handling of the challenges facing the country, in addition to what the report sees as the weak position that the Kurdistan Democratic Party has suffered from since the ill-fated 2017 referendum, adding that Al-Sudani, in this context, made a decision to allow the Kurdistan Democratic Party to return. To Kirkuk, which subsequently rocked the boat unexpectedly.
The report considered that Sudanese's "weak position" seemed to be driven by the need to achieve balance in his divided coalition government, adding that, in contrast to the prevailing myth that the Iraqi prime minister is beholden only to the Shiite parties (and therefore Iran), he is facing pressure from all the parties that helped form The coalition government, including the Kurdish parties.
He pointed out that Al-Sudani has since clarified that he was implementing one of the understandings within this coalition, but the Arab parties in it, which had a feeling that the Kurdistan Democratic Party was weak, now do not want to support this step.
According to the report, the recent Kirkuk disaster was a clear mistake for a seasoned politician like Al-Sudani, noting that the killing of 4 citizens could have been avoided in the clashes that broke out between Kurdish demonstrators and security forces, adding that it was a “costly mistake” in addition to that, as expected, it provoked his allies. The Arabs in the coalition have long been trying to consolidate federal government control over Kirkuk.
In addition, the report said that according to observers, Al-Sudani’s term would face challenges from the dissatisfied Muqtada al-Sadr, or through new demonstrations related to demanding jobs in the public sector, or due to a power outage. However, these observers did not expect that he would face a challenge through the return of... Ethnic divisions in Kirkuk, which Al-Sudani seems to have unwittingly brought upon himself.
The report continued, while Kirkuk remains a subject of dispute, the risk of destabilization will remain pending before Iraq and the Sudanese government, and that although the Prime Minister was able to maintain the cohesion of his government and lead Iraq through continuing challenges, the reality is that the deep questions, such as the fate of Kirkuk and the relationship Between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government, it is the one that remains untreated.
Regarding Baghdad, a report says that there is a belief that if Kirkuk joins the Kurdistan Region, it will leave Iraq in one way or another, while with regard to the Kurdistan Region, annexing Kirkuk will lead to launching the process of independence that it desires.
However, the European report considered that "both beliefs are misplaced, because if Kirkuk remains an independent governorate, or becomes a region in its own right, or joins the pre-existing Kurdistan region, then it is part of a unified federal Iraqi state."
The report called on political actors in Iraq not to deal with Kirkuk as a zero-sum game, and instead to realize that its status must be chosen by its citizens through a referendum, as stipulated in the Iraqi constitution.
But now, the current situation is that the unresolved situation of Kirkuk represents a looming factor of turmoil in relations between Baghdad and the regional government, and that even if it does not currently represent the current crisis, it always remains a hotbed of tension and ready to be exploited politically.
In this context, the report pointed out that while the announcement of Kirkuk’s participation in the provincial elections in December, for the first time since 2005, is considered a limited step towards a representative path forward, it, at the same time, constitutes a danger that it will continue. Political parties are using recent events to mobilize their voter base, and are working to exacerbate polarization and ethnic tensions, which will only enhance the security threat posed by ISIS sleeper cells, which often exploit such situations.
At the same time, the report considers that recent events have revealed the weakness of Sudanese’s ability to coordinate dealing with divisions within his coalition, which enhances the fragility of the Sudanese government.
He added that in light of the escalation of tensions between Baghdad and the regional government, this makes the Kurdistan Region vulnerable to interventions by Turkey and Iran, which are concerned that feelings of independence in Kirkuk will extend to their Kurdish population, pointing, for example, to the two countries’ already militarily intervening in the north. Iraq against Kurdish opposition forces stationed there.
In an invitation addressed to Europe, the report warned that any further escalation of tensions in Kirkuk could have destabilizing effects throughout the region and beyond. Therefore, it is imperative for European foreign ministries and their missions in Iraq to take advantage of their projects aimed at strengthening democracy, in order to assure Iraqi politicians that However, their parties are partners in a coalition government and in a federal state, which requires them to adhere to democratic federalism.
The report continued its implicit warning, saying that “without social harmony among Iraq’s multi-ethnic population, the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and the NATO mission in Iraq, along with other European missions, will never achieve their goal.”
The European report concluded by saying that although Kirkuk is a single governorate, it serves as a "regional fault line" that can cause turmoil throughout the Middle East.
He added that Sudanese has so far been able to continue developing relations with his neighbors despite having to overcome internal divisions in his coalition government, but this work becomes more difficult and dangerous when it comes to addressing old issues such as Kirkuk.
After the report indicated that this issue is internal and sensitive, it stressed the importance of European missions providing assistance in order to create the conditions conducive to reaching a solution by emphasizing their support for the federal system and democracy in Iraq. The report considered that this could reduce concerns regarding the status of Kirkuk within the Iraqi state, calm relations with neighboring Turkey and Iran, and prevent harm to the security operations of the international coalition and the NATO mission in Iraq.
Translated by Shafaq News Agency
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