Saturday, September 6, 2008

Khanaqin Deal Off?

It now appears that the deal between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) over the disputed northern territory of Khanaqin in Diyala province is on hold. Alsumaria TV was the first to report on problems with the proposed negotiations on September 5. They interviewed a member of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) who said that a bargain had not been reached between the two sides. Not only that, he went on to say that Iraqi forces never entered Khanaqin so they didn’t have to withdraw, while the Kurdish Peshmerga militia were operating illegally because they are only authorized to work within Kurdistan. He stated that the central government and the KRG were having far reaching talks that included the powers of each, and the borders of Kurdistan. Later in the day, an official government spokesman told the Voices of Iraq that indeed, no deal had been made.

In earlier negotiations, the two sides had focused upon checkpoints and a withdrawal of forces. First, both the Iraqi army and the Kurdish Peshmerga would pull out of Khanaqin. To maintain security, four checkpoints would be established. The district’s police would control three of them, while the police and Iraqi army would jointly run the other.

To add to the on going tensions, Iraqi and U.S. forces conducted a raid on the head of the Saadiya local council, who they accused of working with armed groups. Saadiya is part of the Khanaqin district. In February 2008 Khanaqin was placed under KRG administration. The report on the raid did not say whether the council leader was an Arab or a Kurd.

The apparent on again, off again nature of the talks between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Kurds points towards the delicate nature of the ruling alliance. Next to the SIIC, the Kurds have been the other major faction to prop up Maliki. The Prime Minister’s increasing military assertiveness has some in the Kurdish camp worried that he will demand control of all of Iraq, including other disputed areas like Mosul and Kirkuk that the Kurds covet, and perhaps Kurdistan itself.

SOURCES

Alsumaria, “Kirkuk hurdle before provincial elections,” 9/5/08

Voices of Iraq, “Local official escaped arrest warrant in Diala’s disputed town,” 9/5/08
- “Military units should be under central govt. control,” 8/19/08
- “No deal struck between central gov’t, Kurds over Khanaqin-spokesman,” 9/5/08

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