In the January 2009 elections the newly formed Al-Hadbaa List won an outright majority in Ninewa province. They received 38.4% of the vote, which netted them 19 of 37 seats on the provincial council. Shortly after the results were announced a politician from the Kurdish coalition, the Ninewa Brotherhood List, that ran in the election said they would be willing to work with Al-Hadbaa if Kurdish rights were guaranteed. Recently the leader of Al-Hadbaa, Atheel al-Nujafi, who is likely to become governor, has been interviewed several times. From his comments it seems highly unlikely that the Kurds and the newly elected Sunnis will have much in common.
Al-Nujafi had rather conventional views about developing Ninewa, and dealing with violence. He said he would create a long-term economic growth plan for the province that focuses upon the private sector. Al-Nujafi believes there are plenty of resources in Ninewa that can be exploited to enrich the area. Security was another major issue as Ninewa is one of the deadliest in the country. Al-Nujafi believes that there are three sources of violence. First there are political motivated attacks against the United States. Many of these insurgents also reject the political system. Al-Nujafi said that the government should talk with them to resolve their problems. Second were criminal gangs that have taken advantage of the power vacuum created by the competition for power between Arabs and Kurds. It was the duty of the security forces to deal with them. Last were foreign groups that wanted to undermine the country. The security forces and the provincial government would deal with them.
Nujafi’s most controversial comments however were about the Kurds who have ruled the province since 2005. Nujafi told the Iraqi paper Azzaman that the Kurds had done a poor job governing Ninewa. For that reason he wants all the standing Kurdish politicians to resign, and be replaced by fresh faces that would be acceptable to Arabs. The politicians also have to address Ninewa’s issues exclusively. He said that he would reject any that thought about the needs of Kurdistan. That included desires to annex disputed territories in the north, which he said should be under the control of Baghdad until their future was decided.
Finally, Nujafi blamed the Americans for the both violence and the recent past in Ninewa. He said that the American presence helped lead to the insurgency and their attacks in the province. He also accused the U.S. of being pro-Kurdish, supporting their rule over the province.
Nujafi’s statements have had a cool reception amongst the Kurds as could be expected. The out-going deputy governor Khasro Goran said that he believed Al-Hadbaa wanted to kick the Kurds out of Mosul. The Kurds have also formally asked the United States to keep troops in the north, fearing future disputes with the country’s Arabs.
Since al-Hadbaa won a majority in the January elections, they will have a largely free reign to rule Ninewa. While working on developing Ninewa’s economy and security would gain support from any Iraqi, the party’s stance on the Kurds looks to be fostering more divisions in a province that has seen noting but conflict for most of the period since the U.S. invasion. Adding to the situation, al-Hadbaa could also gain support from Baghdad as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has increasingly challenged Kurdistan himself. Either way it shows the precarious situation Iraq’s politics finds itself in. Having Sunnis gain greater representation in the country after they boycotted the first provincial elections in 2005 was obviously important, but that doesn’t mean it can’t foster further problems as well. In Ninewa's case it appears to have led to the election of a party that wants political payback against the Kurds.
Associated Press, “Iraqi provincial election results,” 2/19/09
Farrell, Stephen, “Election: Preliminary Results,” Baghdad Bureau Blog, New York Times, 2/5/09
Flintoff, Corey, “Shift In Power Heightens Tensions In Iraqi City,” All Things Considered, NPR, 2/27/09
Kamal, Adel, “new ninawa governor: no possibility of Kurdish alliance,” Niqash, 2/24/09
Mohsen, Amer, “Iraq Papers Thu: Corruption and Reconstruction,” IraqSlogger.com, 3/4/09
Salaheddin, Sinan, “Iraqi Kurdish politician want rights protected,” 2/21/09
World Tribune, “Kurdish government warns U.S. military pullout will spark war in N. Iraq,” 3/2/09
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