Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement won the most seats in the March 2010 parliamentary election. Since then his list has been holding a series of heated negotiations with other parties to try to put together a new government. One of those is the Kurdish Alliance made up of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Those two parties have ruled the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) since the end of the Gulf War. As reported before, the Kurds have serious reservations about Allawi’s National Movement because they consider some of its prominent Sunni members to be anti-Kurdish. Those consist of Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, parliamentarian Osama Nujafi, and his brother Atheel Nujafi who is the governor of Ninewa, and the head of the al-Hadbaa Party. That has made talks between the two difficult. Allawi has made a concerted effort to address the Kurds’ concerns, but his allies continue to undermine his moves.
Allawi and various spokesmen for his list have been at the forefront of efforts to woo the Kurds into a new government. For example, on March 27 it was reported that Allawi came out in support of a second term for Jalal Talabani of the PUK as Iraq’s president. On March 31, a National Movement official said that they would come up with solutions to the differences between Baghdad and Kurdistan. That included finding resolutions to Kirkuk that would be acceptable to all parties, as well as ending the dispute over Kurdish oil deals. On the same day, a spokesman for Allawi claimed that the list was willing to implement Article 140 of the constitution, which sets out broad guidelines for the annexation of Kirkuk and other disputed territories. The spokesman also announced that Allawi would hold a series of meetings with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani who heads the KDP. Allawi already went to Kurdistan to consult with Barzani on March 13. These statements by Allawi’s list are attempts to meet the major demands that the Kurdish Alliance has set out to join any new ruling coalition. Of utmost importance is the resolution of Kirkuk, which has not be dealt with since the U.S. invasion despite various promises by governments in Baghdad. After that they would like the government to recognize their oil deals, they want a real say in decision making, the Kurdish peshmerga to be funded by Baghdad, and of lesser importance, the re-election of Talabani to the presidency.
The problem for Allawi is that for every positive statement that he and his spokesmen make, Hashemi and the Nujafi’s seem to undermine him. For example, shortly after the election Hashemi told Al Jazeera that an Arab should be president. Allawi had to travel to Kurdistan to make-up for that statement, but on March 31, Hashemi repeated his demand. On March 22, Osama Nujafi said that the National Movement would oppose giving any concessions to the Kurds on the disputed territories or Kirkuk, while on March 30 his brother Atheel said that all of Iraq’s major blocs agreed that the Kurds would not expand their territory, and that they would get no guarantees over the disputed areas. On April 1, Osama Nujafi was a bit more compromising when he said that the National Movement wanted to deal with all of their problems with the Kurds. However, he said that before that could happen the Kurds needed to recognize the victories of the National Movement in Ninewa, Tamim, Salahaddin, and Diyala, the northern provinces that surround Kurdistan. That might also mean acknowledging Sunni opposition in those governorates to Kurdish expansion.
Initial talks between the major parties appear to have hit a dead end. Both Allawi and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are finding it difficult to find allies. The National Movement has the added problem of giving off contradictory messages about their stance towards the Kurds. Allawi actually has good relations with both Talabani and Barzani, but his allies Hashemi and the Nujafis have an adversarial approach to the Kurdish Alliance. For now, it seems unlikely that Allawi would be able to come to any compromises with the Kurds that would be acceptable to his allies within his own list. The Kurds are not necessary to reach the 163 seats in parliament needed for a new government, but since the Iraqi parties are still talking about a national unity coalition, the Kurds would have to be included. That puts Allawi between a rock and a hard place, not being able to satisfy either the Kurdish Alliance or his Sunni allies.
AK News, “Allawi to solve tensions between Erbil, Baghdad: source,” 3/31/10
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Alsumaria News, “Nujaifi confirms that Iraq has a great desire to dismantle “all the problems” with the Kurds,” 4/1/10
Hamad, Qassim Khidhir, “kurdish kingmakes?” Niqash, 3/25/10
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