As report earlier, the northern region of Diyala province known as Khanaqin has been a source of increasing tension between Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government. Kurdish Peshmerga militiamen have occupied the area since 2003, but in August 2008, Iraqi forces reached the city and demanded that the Kurds withdraw. A deal was struck, but after the Kurds pulled out of two towns, Qara Taba and Jalwalaa, protests organized by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, made the Iraqi troops pull out as well. This series of events apparently infuriated Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who, according to Voices of Iraq warned the Peshmerga on August 29 that if they operate outside of Kurdistan they would be breaking the law. The day before, the Kurdish Peshmerga minister was quoted as saying his forces were better than the Iraqi army who could not challenge them.
The 2005 Iraqi constitution said that autonomous regions could have their own security forces, which legalized the Peshmerga. The Kurdish militia however, occupy a wide variety of areas outside of Kurdistan including Salahaddin, Diyala, Tamim, and Ninewa provinces. They are operating in areas where Kurds reside, and which the regional government wishes to annex as part of a Greater Kurdistan.
The recent confrontation brings to the fore the divisions between two different theories on the future of Iraq’s government. Prime Minister Maliki is attempting to centralize power under his control. He began with his offensives in southern Iraq and Baghdad in March 2008. He is now trying to expand that authority into northern regions, beginning with the city of Mosul, and currently in Diyala province. The Kurds on the other hand, wish to expand their power by annexing Kurdish areas throughout the north into their autonomous region. They have pushed for a quasi-federal system where Kurdistan has wide authority to pass laws and carry out development policies on its own.
Katzman, Kenneth, “Iraq: Reconciliation and Benchmarks,” Congressional Research Service, 5/12/08
Khidhir, Qassim, “Iraqi army withdraws after Khanaqin demonstration,” Kurdish Globe, 8/28/08
Voices of Iraq, “Iraqi forces take control of Diala’s disputed town-military,” 8/29/08
- “PM al-Maliki will punish Peshmerga deployed outside Kurdistan enclave-PM,” 8/29/08
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