Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The conflict between Baghdad and Erbil

Connor Molloy (Daily News Egypt) has a very one-sided report on the oil disputes between Baghdad and Erbil.  That ends up being a good thing because the ridiculous and one-sided piles on top of each other until its zenith: "The ministry is particularly angered about deals with the Kurdish region because they argue that Kurdish groups outside of Iraq will benefit from the deals at the expense of the Iraqi people."  Iraqis don't benefit from oil deals now.  Molloy ignores that fact.  That doesn't erase it.  It doesn't change the fact that Nouri and his Cabinet have just asserted that there is no oil surplus revenue to share with the people.  Molloy ignoring that reality doesn't change the fact that Moqtada al-Sadr called Nouri's assertion out.  Iraq is setting records for output and bringing in record revenues but claiming there is no money to share with the Iraqi people.  This is seen as as ludicrous because Iraqis can remember even Saddam Hussein having revenues to share with the people.

Again, sometimes one-sided reports are a real gift because the author reveals far more than he/she would if they felt bound by fairness or the facts.  Today Molloy inadvertantly reveals just how hollow Nouri's argument is.

Christophe Ayad (Le Monde via the Guardian) weighs in on the conflict between Nouri's Baghdad-based government and the Kurdistan Regional Government:

Baghdad and Erbil have an endless list of grievances, ranging from border controls and the integration of the peshmerga to the Iraqi national army, to the delimitation of Kurdistan and the sharing of wealth between the centre and the autonomous region – especially oil.
There is a fear that growing Kurdish independence will serve as an example to the Sunni provinces, or even to the oil-rich Shia province of Basra in the far south of Iraq, which produces 2m of the 2.5m Iraqi barrels a day. "Al-Maliki would far rather be the leader of a large country than the master of a 'Shia-istan' in the south of Iraq," was one western diplomat's analysis. Conversely, Barzani sees himself as the defender of Iraqi minorities in the face of Shia "hegemony". That is why he granted asylum to the Sunni vice-president Tariq al-Hashemi in December 2011, after he was judged in abstentia in Iraq for having headed a death squad during the civil war (2005-2008).

The much anticipated Reform Commission is really just a forthcoming list.  Alsumaria notes that the KRG, via Mohammad Ehsan, has made clear that the list better include the issue of Article 140.  Article 140 is in the Iraq Constitution -- hence its name -- and it requires that the disputed territories have a census and referendum.  It also was supposed to be implemented by the end of 2007.  This is not open to debate or dispute, this is written into the Constitution.  Nouri al-Maliki becomes prime minister in Iraq in the spring of 2006.  But Nouri ignored it, despite taking an oath to uphold the Constitution.  He has repeatedly refused to implement this. 

Again, Article 140 is not open to interpretation.  It is a law and not a distant one.  The Iraqi Constitution was drawn up in 2005.  Not only was it recent, Nouri should have had no problem grasping intent and meaning.  May 15, 2005, he was appointed to the Iraqi Constitution Drafting Committee.  Yes, Nouri served on the committee that wrote the Constitution.  (As did his spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh.)

Nouri refused to implement Article 140.  Until 2010 when his State of Law lost to Iraqiya in the parliamentary elections.  In the eight month-plus stalemate that followed the elections, stalemate created by Nouri, he made like Warren Beatty in Promise Her Anything, rushing around from one bloc to another.

The Kurds had reason to believe he was serious.  Not only did he swear it would happen, not only was it included in the contract the US negotiated (the Erbil Agreement) which gave Nouri his second term, but when all parties signed off on the Erbil Agreement (Novemeber 2010), there was a census in Kirkuk scheduled for the start of December.

As is always the case with Nouri, he just can't be trusted.

He cancelled the census, swearing it would be rescheduled shortly.  Almost two years later, it never has been rescheduled.

The American press, especially the New York Times, tries to act surprised by the Kurds and play this 'what do they want' approach.  They want Kirkuk resolved.  They want oil-rich Kirkuk for themselves but they think they can win the census and referendum so they want Article 140 implemented.  This was why they agreed to the Erbil Agreement, why they agreed to give cry baby Nouri a second term as prime minister.  This is why, when it was obvious that Nouri was refusing to implement the Erbil Agreement, they began calling for a return to it in the summer of 2011.  This was at the heart of their demands then and it remains at the heart of their demands.

And it isn't unreasonable.  It lost the ability to be seen as unreasonable when it was written into the Constitution.  Though the New York Times loves to play dumb, once it made it into the Constitution, there was no longer any need to discuss or explore, it was the law.

And the longer Article 140 is not followed, the more damage done to Iraq.  Let's drop back a year to
the  July 26, 2011 snapshot for more on this issue:
Of greater interest to us (and something's no one's reported on) is the RAND Corporation's  report entitled "Managing Arab-Kurd Tensions in Northern Iraq After the Withdrawal of U.S. Troops."  The 22-page report, authored by Larry Hanauer, Jeffrey Martini and Omar al-Shahery, markets "CBMs" -- "confidence-building measures" -- while arguing this is the answer.  If it strikes you as dangerously simplistic and requiring the the Kurdish region exist in a vacuum where nothing else happens, you may have read the already read the report.  CBMs may strike some as what the US military was engaged in after the Iraqi forces from the central government and the Kurdish peshmerga were constantly at one another's throats and the US military entered into a patrol program with the two where they acted as buffer or marriage counselor.  (And the report admits CBMs are based on that.)  Sunday Prashant Rao (AFP) reported US Col Michael Bowers has announced that, on August 1st, the US military will no longer be patrolling in northern Iraq with the Kurdish forces and forces controlled by Baghdad. That took years.  And had outside actors.  The authors acknowledge:
Continuing to contain Arab-Kurd tensions will require a neutral third-party arbitrator that can facilitate local CMBs, push for national-level negotiations, and prevent armed conflict between Iraqi and Kurdish troops.  While U.S. civilian entities could help implement CMBs and mediate political talks, the continued presence of U.S. military forces within the disputed internal boundaries would be the most effective way to prevent violent conflict between Arabs and Kurds.
As you read over the report, you may be struck by its failure to state the obvious: If the US government really wanted the issue solved, it would have been solved in the early years of the illegal war.  They don't want it solved.  The Kurds have been the most loyal ally the US has had in the country and, due to that, they don't want to upset them.  However, they're not going to pay back the loyalty with actual support, not when there's so much oil at stake.  So the Kurds were and will continue to be told their interests matter but the US will continue to blow the Kurdish issues off over and over.  Greed trumps loyalty is the message.  (If you doubt it, the Constitution guaranteed a census and referendum on Kirkuk by December 31, 2007.  Not only did the US government install Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister in 2006, they continued to back him for a second term in 2010 despite his failure to follow the Constitution.)
Along with avoiding that reality, the report seems rather small-minded or, at least, "niche driven."  Again, the authors acknowledge that as well noting that they're not presenting a solution to the problems or ways to reach a solution, just ways to kick the can further down the road and, hopefully, there won't be an explosion that forces the issue any time soon. ("Regional and local CBMs have the potential to keep a lid on inter-communal tensions that will, without question, boil beneath the surface for a long time.  They cannot, however, resolve what is, at its heart, a strategic political dispute that must be resolved at the national level.") Hopefully? Page nine of the report notes that the consensus of US military, officials, analysts, etc. who have worked on the issue is that -- "given enough time -- Arab and Kurdish participants will eventually have a dispute that leads to violence, which will cause the mechanism to degrade or collapse."
The report notes that, in late 2009, Gen Ray Odierno (top US commander in Iraq at that point) had declared the tensions between Arabs and Kurds to be "the greatest single driver of instability in Iraq."  It doesn't note how the US Ambassador to Iraq when Odierno made those remarks was Chris Hill who dismissed talk of tensions as well as the issue of the oil rich and disputed Kirkuk.
 This issue should have been dealt with a long time ago.  It is in the Constitution.  Any and every report on tensions between Nouri and the KRG should be including Article 140 because that is at the heart of the conflict and because Article 140 is a part of the Constitution so it is a law.  That Nouri has refused to implement it is not in question.

All Iraq News notes that the Kurdish Alliance spokesperson declared today that there is a need for a course correction, that the three presidencies (Prime Minister, President and Speaker of Parliament) need to be reduced to two terms, that an oil and ags law is neede and that, it's always there, Article 140 of the Constitution needs to be implemented.

The following community sites -- plus, Jody Watley, The World Can't Wait, CSPAN, Out-FM, ACLU, The Bat Segundo Show, IVAW, Courage to Resist and Susan's On The Edge -- updated last night and this morning:

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