Thursday, January 17, 2013

Still No Agreement Upon Security Forces In Iraq’s Disputed Territories


From November to December 2012 the press was reporting that Iraq’s central and Kurdish regional governments were on the verge of war. The security forces of the two sides were facing off in northern Iraq. The cause was the creation of the Tigris Operations Command by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which the Kurdish parties took as being aimed at their aspirations for control of the disputed areas. There was a shootout between the two sides, and an increasingly vicious war of words between them. Since then there have been a series of meetings between Baghdad and Irbil with no resolution so far. If this were a serious confrontation this would still be a pressing matter, instead of the after thought that it is becoming. The reason was that this was always a political scheme by both Premier Maliki and Kurdish President Massoud Barzani to rally support behind them.

On January 13, 2013, representatives from Baghdad and Kurdistan had their latest meeting over the disputed territories. There was no agreement, and another get together will take place later in the month. The two sides talked about how to coordinate security in the disputed areas, which was the basis of their disagreement. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki suggested that Tamim province was the only disputed area, because it was the only specific place named in the constitution. The Kurdish delegation rejected that idea claiming that all the disputed territories had to be under discussion. This came after the acting Defense Minister Sadoun al-Dulaimi claimed that an understanding had been reached on December 28. He stated that the two sides were going to set up joint security centers, but that obviously was not true. This was just one of several conference the central and regional governments have had since November when the confrontation first stared. It’s apparent from these get togethers that the two sides are still far apart. They still do not have a common framework from which to move forward. Despite that, the international press is no longer covering the story, and it is only get normal coverage in the Iraqi news.

The confrontation started in November 2012 when the Kurds moved their forces into the disputed territories to confront the Tigris Operations Command. That unit was created in July 2012 by Premier Maliki to cover Diyala, Tamim, and Salahaddin provinces. The ruling Kurdish parties immediately began criticizing it. The major issue was that they didn’t recognize the right of the prime minister to create the command that covered many of the disputed areas to begin with. As a result, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) moved in its peshmerga into the disputed areas, demanding that the command be disbanded. Maliki on the other hand, has called for a completely new security arrangement. Things escalated in mid-November when the Iraqi army and police tried to arrest a Kurdish businessmen accused of oil smuggling, which led to a shoot out with one person being killed, and ten wounded. The government and Kurdish forces have been staring down each other since then.

After the initial alignment of forces, a war of words exploded with the press full of stories of possible war. In November, an official from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) claimed that the Tigris Command was getting Arab soldiers to move into Kirkuk, hinting at a new Arabization policy like the one Saddam carried out to force Kurds to leave. That same month, Barham Saleh of the PUK said that Maliki was trying to take the Kurds back to Saddam’s time with the Tigris Command. The next month, President Barzani gave an interview with Azzaman calling Maliki a dictator. The Peshmerga Minister claimed that Maliki was arming Arab tribes in Diyala and Tamim, and mobilizing more forces to move into the disputed territories, which he called a declaration of war. Later, a peshmerga commander told the press it was time to attack the government’s forces, because they weren’t ready. Finally, in mid-December, Barzani visited Kirkuk, and reviewed the Kurdish forces there. Maliki’s State of Law said that was a declaration of war, called Barzani a dictator, and compared him to Saddam reviewing his troops. With these types of statements it was no wonder that the military standoff in the disputed areas dominated the headlines both within and without Iraq. If the comments were taken at face value it did appear that Baghdad was about to go to war with Irbil. The reality was much different however.

If Kurdistan and the central government were really ready to go to war over the Tigris Operations Command they would still be attacking each other in the media, and tensions would be running high throughout the disputed areas, because there has been no deal between the two. Instead, they are carrying out occasional meetings with little sign of progress, and the story is being treated as a nothing special. That’s because the confrontation was always political in nature. Maliki decided to challenge the Kurds to portray himself as an Iraqi nationalist and appeal to Sunni Arabs who oppose Kurdistan’s designs on the disputed territories. He did the exact same thing in Khanaqin, Diyala before the 2009 provincial elections. The Tigris Command controversy precedes the 2014 governorate level voting. President Barzani benefited as well as he was able to rally the Kurdish parties and press behind him when before he was coming under criticism. Now that they have milked the standoff there’s no reason to push the matter anymore. Instead they have turned to the negotiating table, which can drag on forever. Some agreement is likely to come out of it, but it’s unlikely to bring about any real change in Tamim, Salahaddin, and Diyala. The real affect will be seen in the ballot box in April when Iraqis go to the polls, and Maliki and Barzani will each use the Tigris Command as an example of their leadership skills.

SOURCES

Ahmed, Hevidar, “Kurdish MPs Warn Of War With Baghdad, As Peshmerga Forces Await Orders,” Rudaw, 12/6/12
- “Kurdish Parties Seen United Against Dijla Forces’ Push into Kirkuk,” Rudaw, 11/20/12
- “Major Differences Persist in Talks with Baghdad, Kurdish officials Say,” Rudaw, 1/11/13

Alsabawi, Jasim, “Politicians in Baghdad say Kurdish Fears of Dijla Forces Unfounded,” Rudaw, 11/17/12

Alsumaria, “Peshmerga accuses Iraq MP of ‘arming’ Arab tribes,” 12/3/12

Arraf, Jane, “Kurdish-Iraqi government talks collapse amid fear of civil war,” Christian Science Monitor, 11/30/12

Associated Press, “Baghdad, Kurds agree to defuse tension,” 11/26/12

Azzaman, “Kurdish leader lashes out at Iraqi premier, says he will not ‘surrender,’” 12/2/12

Hussein, Adnan, “Tigris Operations Command Formed by PM Maliki Criticized as Unconstitutional,” Rudaw, 9/16/12

Juhi, Bushra, “Kurdish Commander Warns of Battle Against Iraq,” Associated Press, 11/19/12

Kurdistan Tribune, “’Maliki wants to take Kurdistan back to pre-1991’ – Barham Salih,” 11/19/12

Mahmood, Nawzad, “Kurdistan President: Dijla Forces Will Cause Instability and Hinder Implementation of Article 140,” Rudaw, 11/13/12
- “Tension Easing after Standoff between Peshmerga and Iraqi Troops in Dibis,” Rudaw, 11/27/12

Mohammed, Shalaw, “new command centre in Kirkuk threatens peace,” Niqash, 10/4/12

Muhammad, Nehro, “Demands In Disputed Territories, Official Says,” Rudaw, 12/7/12
- “Kirkuk Political Groups Split in Reaction to Dijla Operations Command,” Rudaw, 11/14/12

Natali, Denise, “Gambling With Kurdistan And Checking Baghdad,” Al Monitor, 12/12/12

National Iraqi News Agency, “Baghdad, Arbil agreed to withdraw and replace them with a joint security centers,” 12/27/12
- “BREAKING NEWS Military talks between Kurdish, Central Government delegations concluded without results,” 1/13/13
- “Demonstrations in Kirkuk to reject Tigris Operations Command,” 11/12/12
- “Jabar Yawar: Central Government not serious in solving disputes with the Region,” 11/30/12
- “Kurdistan accuses Maliki of pushing the crisis to the brink of armed conflict,” 12/10/12
- “Kurdistan Parliament: the formation of Dijlah Operations Command, unconstitutional,” 11/8/12
- “Maliki warns Peshmerga from approaching to the armed forces,” 11/19/12
- “MP: Kurd’s fear from Tigris Operation is unjustified,” 10/25/12

Al-Rabii, Zaydan, “Tensions Increase Between Baghdad and Kurdistan Region,” Al-Khaleej, 11/26/12

Al-Rubayi, Zaidan, “Maliki’s Party Says Troop Review Was Barzani’s ‘Declaration of war,’” Al-Khaleej, 12/12/12

Rudaw, “Initial Agreement Reached between Forces in Disputed Areas,” 11/29/12
- “Iraqi Troops and Peshmerga Forces On Verge of Confrontation South of Kirkuk,” 11/17/12

Sattar, Omar, “Kurdistan Alliance Denies Deal with Baghdad,” Al-Hayat, 12/31/12

Shafaq, News, “Kirkuk council show rejection to Dijla forces deployment,” 9/24/12
- “Kirkuk security committee: we refuse to deal with Dijla operations,” 10/22/12
- “PUK: Dijla operations recruit 3,000 Arab soldiers and urge them to move to Kirkuk,” 11/4/12

Sowell, Kirk, “Inside Iraqi Politics No. 43,” 8/2/12
- “Inside Iraqi Politics No. 50,” 11/21/12
- “Inside Iraqi Politics No. 51,” 12/5/12

Tohmeh, Abdel Wahed, “Iraqi Shia Clerics Call for Calm,” Al-Hayat, 12/5/12

Yacoub, Sameer, “Iraqi Kurdish leader visits disputed areas,” Associated Press, 12/10/12

Zagros, Roman, “the iraq – kurdish military stand off: and the winner is…,” Niqash, 11/29/12

No comments: