Monday, February 8, 2010

Political Disputes Continue in Ninewa


In the January 2009 provincial elections the new al-Hadbaa party won a majority in Ninewa, and took all the positions in the local government in April. The al-Hadbaa party was made up of Mosul businessmen, tribal leaders, Kurds who opposed the ruling Kurdish parties, Turkmen, and also garnered support from many nationalist insurgent groups and former Baathists. They stood for a strong central government, opposition to Kurdish claims to disputed areas in the province, and called for the Kurdish militia the peshmerga to withdraw. They replaced the Ninewa Fraternal List who was led by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) who had ruled Ninewa since 2005 when Arabs boycotted the local elections. The Fraternal List protested not being included in the new government by announcing that they and 16 districts they controlled would not cooperate with al-Hadbaa, and denouncing the party as Baathists. The Kurds went further by saying that no provincial officials could enter the 16 areas without their permission. This resulted in two dramatic confrontations in May when the governor and provincial police chief were stopped from entering Kurdish controlled areas by the peshmerga. Tensions grew as later in the month people in the Telafar district demanded that they be annexed by Kurdistan, and then in June pro al-Hadbaa tribesmen got into a shootout with peshmerga in the Sinjar district. In August when three large bombings struck minorities the Fraternal List and al-Hadbaa blamed each other rather than insurgents for the attacks.

Things have gotten no better as the March 2010 parliamentary elections are nearing. In January 2010 the governor of Ninewa Atheel al-Nujafi initiated a no confidence vote against the mayor of Sinjar, who turned around and filed a lawsuit against the governor. The Fraternal List condemned the removal of the mayor as well, claiming that al-Hadbaa represented Baathists and their henchmen. At the beginning of February, Governor Nujafi went to the Tel Kaif district where protestors threw fruits and vegetables at his car, while Fraternal List officials said that the governor had gone to the area without their permission. Later in the month Kurdish parties accused al-Hadbaa of trying to shut down their offices in the province before the vote, while Governor Nujafi held a press conference calling on the central government to have the peshmerga removed from Ninewa

The tit for tat between the al-Hadbaa party and the Ninewa Fraternal List does not look like it will be abating anytime soon. Their dispute has resulted in Ninewa province being divided into two separate and rival administrative areas, with no cooperation between them. This is one reason why the province is the most violent per capita in Iraq, because the insurgents have been able to exploit these differences. Several parties in parliament, and the United States and United Nations have tried to mediate between the two, but to no avail. Recently joint U.S.-Iraqi-peshmerga checkpoints have been created in Ninewa, which the Americans hope will build confidence between Arabs and Kurds, but since the Iraqi forces involved are controlled by Baghdad, not the provincial government, they’re unlikely to do anything about the al-Hadbaa-Fraternal List argument. Many hoped that the January 2009 elections would lead to reconciliation in Iraq, as many Sunnis boycotted the last one, but in Ninewa the balloting made the situation worse.

SOURCES

AK News, “Call to resolve conflict between key Kurd and Arab lists in Nineveh,” 2/5/10
- “KRG Spokesman calls for allowing Peshmerga forces to share in security,” 2/7/10
- “Kurdish parties in Nineveh is legal: official,” 2/6/10
- “Nineveh brotherhood renewed fears from Hadba list program,” 2/2/10

Asawt al-Iraq, “Sinjar mayor to sue Ninewa governor,” 1/29/10

International Crisis Group, “Iraq’s New Battlefront: The Struggle Over Ninewa,” 9/28/09

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