Friday, October 14, 2011

Iraq’s Prime Minister Makes Feeble Attempt To Regain Rhetorical Standing Over Khanaqin District

In late August 2011, Kurdish peshmerga moved back into Diyala’s Khanaqin district after a three-year absence. The event was criticized by Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement, but otherwise went largely under the radar. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the United States military both signed off on the deployment otherwise the Kurdish forces could not return. In October, the premier attempted to make some political points off the event that he had previously okayed by demanding that the Kurds only fly the Iraqi flag in the district. This shows that Maliki’s once prominent nationalist stance is mostly rhetoric now as he is far more concerned about consolidating his power over the government.
Kurdish flag flying in Iraq (Wikipedia)
 In October, Prime Minister Maliki tried to create the image that the central government had authority over the disputed territories in northern Iraq, but there was no bite to his bark. On October 11, Kurdish officials in Diyala’s Khanaqin district received an order from Maliki to lower the Kurdish flags that were flying over the area, and only have the Iraqi banner up. Khanaqin refused, and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) supported its decision. The Kurds have been flying their flag over the district since the 2003 invasion when they swept into the area. Kurdish officials would later say they were surprised by Maliki’s move as they said there was nothing illegal about having both the Iraqi and Kurdish flags flying in the country. This was a meaningless move by the premier, and only aimed at scoring some political points with the general public. Maliki knew that the Kurds would not agree to his demand, but it gave the image that he was trying to assert the central government’s authority over the disputed territories. This is a position supported by many in the majority Arab population. The fact that he had earlier okayed the Kurdish peshmerga to return to the district didn’t seem to matter, and was hardly mentioned publicly.

Maliki won large popular support by portraying himself as an Iraqi nationalist back in 2008. That was the year that he sent the security forces after Shiite militias in southern Iraq, then focused upon the insurgency in Ninewa, and finally confronted the Kurds over the disputed territories in Khanaqin. Since then, he has lost much of his standing because of his partisan disputes with his rivals such as Allawi and his Iraqi National Movement. This short flourish with the Kurds was a return to his earlier nationalist stance, but there was no substance to it. He made a demand he knew the Kurds would not agree to, and than left it at that. He actually has no problem with the peshmerga moving back into Khanaqin or the Kurds administering the area as long as the Kurdish Coalition remains part of the ruling coalition. The public was not fooled by this frivolous attempt at cow towing to them, and illustrates how far Maliki has moved away from what kept him in office in the past. Today he is more interested in consolidating his authority over the government than taking on the pressing issues facing the country.

For more on Arab-Kurd dispute in Diyala see:

Kurdish Forces Re-Deploy To Iraq's Diyala Province
Kurds Demand Peshmerga Return To Iraq's Diyala Province
Maliki Still Pushing The Kurds On Khanaqin District
Cold War Between Baghdad And Kurds Turn Hot
The Kurds Come Out Swinging
Khanaqin Deal Off?
Deal Struck To Defuse Khanaqin Issue
Maliki Ups The Ante in Khanaqin District of Diyala
Kurdish-Baghdad Tensions Over Diyala


Mohammed, Byrar, “Kurdish official defies order to lower Kurdish flag in disputed district,” AK News, 10/11/11

Vrosk, Raman, “Kurds surprised about Maliki’s flag-order,” AK News, 10/12/11

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