Tag Archives: article 140

One way to end uncertainty in Kirkuk, hold long overdue referendum

The Kurds have long considered Kirkuk their Jerusalem. The diverse city has a clear Kurdish identity, notably with the area already under the de facto control of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

The uproar over the decision of the Kirkuk Provincial Council to hoist the Kurdistan flag alongside the Iraqi one over state institutions ignores the reality and aims at creating a political commotion.

The objections raised by Turkmen, Baghdad, the Turkish government, and even the United Nations (UN) take a narrow view of proceedings.

Firstly, in a deliberate attempt to change the demographic make-up of the area, including governorate boundaries, thousands of Kurds were forcibly evicted from their homes as part of Saddam Hussein’s infamous Arabisation campaign.

Why would Hussein have gone to extreme lengths to Arabise the city if the Kurds did not constitute a majority? Moreover, the same parties that object to the raising of the Kurdistan flag choose to ignore the injustices committed against the Kurds. Instead, they turn the tables by accusing the Kurds of creating instability.

When the Kurds returned to their ancestral homes, the addressing of Hussein’s atrocities was overlooked, and the Kurds were accused of changing the demographic make-up of the city.

Secondly, after Hussein, the protracted and difficult negotiations between Erbil and Baghdad centered on disputed territories.

Throughout those negotiations, which led to the eventual formation of the Iraqi constitution, the Kurds had a clear stance on Kirkuk, leading to Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution that provided a clear roadmap for the resolution of all disputed territories.

Almost 10 years after a referendum that should have been held after a process of normalization, no vote was in sight. The Kurds are now accused of taking illegal and unconstitutional measures, yet why did Baghdad fail to implement a key article of the constitution?

If Turkey, regional actors, and the UN, or any other party, wishes to provide an impartial intercession to support stability, then they should have pressured Iraq to oblige by its constitution.

In short, Baghdad dragged its heel on Article 140, fully mindful any referendum would only rubber-stamp the return of Kirkuk to the KRG.

Lastly, Kirkuk has always been a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural city. Its inhabitants have lived side by side peacefully for decades. Hoisting the Kurdistan flag merely symbolizes the Kurdish majority component and Kurdish identity of Kirkuk. It doesn’t imply the Kurds have chosen to ignore Turkmen, Arabs, or Christians, or have denied their rights.

In the same way, Mosul has an Arab majority, but with a significant Kurdish population, it doesn’t mean Kurds object to Iraqi flags raised across the city.

Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim recently stated, “We tell those who want to instigate chaos: this flag is that of the Arabs and Turkmen, as well as the Kurds. It is the flag of Kurdistan which is a place for everyone.”

When the Iraqi army fled in the aftermath of an Islamic State (IS) onslaught in 2014, and the Peshmerga provided great sacrifices to protect Kirkuk, they didn’t just defend the Kurds, they defended all of its inhabitants. Who else would have protected the Turkmen and Arabs against the atrocities of IS?

Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani defended the raising of the flag as a legal and standard measure. Pointing to the fact the flag had been present since 2003, and especially after the IS crisis in 2014, Barzani underlined in a statement, “It was the same flag that protected Kirkuk from the threat and attacks of terrorists.”

Meanwhile, according to Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, the recent actions of the Kirkuk governorate would strengthen peace and co-existence.

“In a complete conflict like that in Iraq, the KRG and Kirkuk governorate have shown a great example of coexistence and keeping their areas from tensions and sectarian fighting,” the PM stressed.

As Karim and Kurdish leaders defended the move as constitutional, it came under a barrage of criticism and warnings.

A statement from Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned against any “unilateral act that would jeopardize the reconciliation and stabilization efforts in the country.”

Arshad Salihi, the leader of the Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITF), claimed that “Kirkuk is a fire that if ignited will burn everyone.”

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) issued its warning “against any unilateral steps that might jeopardize harmony and peaceful coexistence.”

Karim, in a defiant message, insisted they would not be bound by the Iraqi parliament’s vote that only the Iraqi flag should fly over Kirkuk.

As for Turkey, Kirkuk was long a “red line,” but times have changed, and rhetoric aside, Ankara accepts Kurdish rule of Kirkuk that gives the Turks a strategic advantage via its warm relations with the KRG.

Either way, the time of opinion and meddling has long passed. If any side truly wants a peaceful and legal resolution on Kirkuk, then it’s time to hold the long overdue referendum.

First Published: Kurdistan 24

Will yet another electoral term in 2014 lead to any real change on Kirkuk and article 140?

The Kirkuk has been at the historic forefront of the Kurdish nationalist struggle. It has been an area of contention for decades and formed a red-line for Kurdish negotiations with Baathist regime long before the liberation of Iraq in 2003.

Resolution of Kirkuk and disputed territories was a firm Kurdish condition since 2003, enshrined even in the Transitive Administrative Law (TAL), before the onset of the official constitution in 2005.

It has then served as the basis for negotiations with coalition partners in Baghdad in 2003, 2006, 2010 and more than likely in 2014.

Approaching six years since the passing of the deadline for Article 140, is Kirkuk any closer today to formal resolution and a return to Kurdistan than it was in 2003 (or indeed under the Saddam regime)?

The lack of progress in article 140, including the all-important national census is hardly an accident. The intentional foot-dragging is clear to see. Ahead of negotiations to form a coalition government in 2014, Kirkuk will once again be a key Kurdish stipulation. But will the new parliamentary term in 2014 witness anything different with regards to this issue?

The reality is that Baghdad will not give up Kirkuk or any additional territory that easily.

It is no coincidence that as soon as the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced oil pipelines to Turkey much to the ire of Baghdad, Iraqi Oil Minister Abdelkarim al-Luaybi was roaming the Kirkuk province with BP CEO Bob Dudley as part of a recent deal between Baghdad and the oil giant to revive Kirkuk’s declining oil fields.

KRG reiterated their objection to the deal which it deemed against the principles of the unconstitutional and illegal.

Yet, in what has become a tit-for-tat, Baghdad also deemed Kurdish deal with foreign oil firms as illegal and had raised warnings over the new oil pipelines which increased the notches in the Kurdish autonomous drive.

Kirkuk sits atop of billions of barrels of oil reserves which have only added to the intensity of the fight over the province.

Baghdad’s move with BP, which had bypassed the KRG, is designed to show authority over disputed territories. This is similar to the onset of the Dijla (Tigris) Operations Command by Iraqi Prime Ministry Nouri al-Maliki in 2012 designed to mark Baghdad’s sphere of influence, leading to dangerous escalations between Erbil and Baghdad.

The resolution of disputed territories is one of many unresolved and hotly-contested articles. Many other items such as the status of Peshmerga forces and a national hydrocarbon law linger much in the same shape as 2007.

Baghdad has sought to address the power balance in Kirkuk with electoral law whilst provincial elections have not been held since 2005.

But Kirkuk does not need short-term fixes or a council representation done on a special basis. The solution is already there – article 140. After that proper elections can be held like any other city.

The more that Kirkuk is treated as a special case – the more excuses that argue against article 140.

Mosul is also a mixed city, but where are special laws and equitable distribution of seats? The elections do the talking, as should be the case anywhere else in Iraq or as in any democratic country.

The same round-robin scenario promises to play out in the aftermath of the elections in 2014. Kurds play a hard-bargain, make clear conditions for their support and the Shiite powers agree. Yet soon after, a game of cat and mouse plays out for yet another 4 years.

First Published On: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

Leaving the fate of Kirkuk to fuzzy democracy while Maliki taunts the Kurds

Iraq has been gripped by a grave political crisis for several months and there appears little intent on the part of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malik’s government to sooth tensions by working towards national reconciliation and resorting to constitutional principles.

Maliki spearheaded an Iraqi Council of Ministers meeting this week in the Kirkuk province, which enflamed already tense relations with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Such an assertive and brazen move by Maliki shows that he is willing to stand up and defy the Kurds in spite of fierce warning by Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani in recent months.

In the face of such development, Kurdistan can remain silent at its own peril. While Barzani has been vociferous both at home and abroad regarding the centralist tendencies of Maliki and the rapid drive towards Iraq’s collapse, the PUK and other opposition figures have been much more passive in contrast.

The issue of Maliki’s authorisation tendencies, lack of implementation of constitutional articles and his show of strength by strolling around disputed territories, is pertinent to the whole of Kurdistan and every Kurdish faction must unite and take a stand.

Stoking of hostilities in Kirkuk

The timing and significance of the ministerial meeting, the first of its kind in Kirkuk, is no coincidence. The move by Baghdad was designed to be provocative in nature and highlight clearly to the Kurdish leadership that the identity of Kirkuk is Iraqi and Baghdad’s dominance is far-reaching.

Obviously, people will be quick to point out that Kirkuk is already part of Iraq but it’s the identity of the city that Maliki is emphasising. In simple terms, he will not allow Kirkuk to become a Kurdistani city.

Maliki statements which failed to mention the constitution, is in contrast to Article 140 and principles that formed the very blueprint of the country. It is not for anyone to decide the fate of Kirkuk but the inhabitants themselves, this includes Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens and not specifically one group.

A constitution is the genetic framework of any country, it is the basis by which governments rule and laws are devised. However, in Iraq many articles continue to gather dust on the political shelf and constitutional laws are bypassed all too often.

The implementation of article 140 is not only significant for Kirkuk but for the whole of Iraq. If article 140 is bypassed then affectively the whole constitution is bypassed. Without implementation of all articles that make up the constitution or adherence to constitutional principles, then Iraq is dead.

Battle for Kirkuk

Kirkuk has been a key symbol of Kurdish history and identity for thousands of years – long before any discovery of oil, the fall of the Ottoman Empire or the rise of Arab nationalism.

It has been a historic redline for Kurdistan and to forgo claim to Kirkuk now would be akin to betraying Kurdish legacy, its martyrs and the immense sacrifices Kurds have made.

Of all the Kurdish cities, Kirkuk clearly suffered the most under Baathist rule. Harsh repression and Arabisation policies saw the forced deportation of thousands of Kurds. Kurds were forced to abandon their heritage and succumb to Arab domination in the province.

Ironically, it is now the Arabs that complain of been treated badly. Returning Kurds who seek to reclaim their historic and legal rights are now the ones outreaching. If Baghdad wants to truly entice the Kurds, turn a new page and is sincere about the principles of union with the Kurds, Kirkuk is the first and only place to start.

Unfortunately, it is appearing ever likely that Article 140 will not be implemented unless sentiments in Baghdad drastically change, which looks like a more unrealistic hope by the day.  The implementation of article 140 is overdue by almost 5 years, which tells its own story.

Furthermore, provincial elections in Kirkuk and importantly a national a census have long been delayed by Baghdad. A census is akin to a de-facto referendum on disputed territories, if the demography of Kirkuk shows the Kurds as a majority then it once again only confirms the Kurdish identity of the province.

Baghdad clearly acknowledges that implementation of article 140 would result in its return to Kurdistan. But one cannot pick and choose democracy as its see fit. Baghdad cannot refuse to implement a referendum only because it fears its inevitable outcome.

Kurdistan next steps

The patient waiting game played by the Kurdish leadership clearly has not worked. If Kurds had gone with instincts at the time and unilaterally annexed Kirkuk in 2003, then the issue of the status of Kirkuk would be a foregone conclusion.

Kurds adopted politics and democracy to resolve dispute territories when clearly Baghdad and Arab nationalists were not ready and did not have the stomach for such motions.

Kurdistan needs to be unequivocal in any negotiations in Baghdad – the time for mere threats and rhetoric is long gone. If article 140 is not implemented then the Kurds should back out of Baghdad altogether and hold a unilateral referendum on the city and annex the region.

The Kurdish opposition parties and particularly the PUK have lacked the punch in raising concerns at Maliki. As KRG-Baghdad relations plunge to new lows, the confrontation will only intensify. This requires all Kurdish parties to unite in Kirkuk, in the Kurdistan Region and in Baghdad.

According to the constitution, Kirkuk’s identity is disputed, therefore the KRG has an equal say on the province as Baghdad on political, social and economic issues. The Kurds should hold a KRG Council of Ministers meeting in Baghdad in the same way.

Maliki is clearly showing the Kurds the extent of his power in Iraq and intimidating the Kurds by demonstrating his reach within Iraq. The Kurds need to take action as much as rhetoric to show that Kirkuk remains a Kurdistani city and remains directly in their sphere of influence.

According to a statement, Maliki had quoted “The problem of Kirkuk cannot be resolved by force and interference, but by the will of its people and by keeping its Iraqi identity”. This in itself is contradictory. You cannot adhere to the will of the people and insistent on an identity at the same time – it’s the will of the people and voices of the masses that determine the identity.

Kirkuk having a Kurdish majority does not mean to deny the Arabs and Turkmen populations. Their rights should be closely guarded in any eventuality but as the referendum will highlight, and as history and geography clearly proves, Kirkuk is a Kurdish city. Many Iraqi cities such as Mosul contain large Kurdish minorities so it can clearly work both ways.

Maliki’s ulterior motive

Not only did Maliki intend to make a show of strength to the Kurds, but his move in Kirkuk where Sunni Arab nationalism is strife was designed to reach out and appease Sunni blocs. The Arab nationalist card against the Kurds has long been used to bridge the sectarian divide in Iraq.

The leaders of Arab parties, who strongly reject article 140, were clearly jubilant at Maliki’s visit and hailed its significance. Kirkuk has been largely neglected by Baghdad with the people suffering from a lack of security, employment, investment and poor public services. The Sunnis have suffered a great deal under recent Shiite domination, but clearly sentiments can be fickle as Sunnis were suddenly quick to praise Maliki.

If Sunni’s want best for Kirkuk then they should made strong demands from Maliki to improve security and the crumbling standard of living.

At the same time, if Maliki really wanted to improve conditions in Kirkuk then he should have insisted on initiatives to improve services. If Maliki wants to entice Kurds in Kirkuk, then he could have reassured them on article 140 and highlighted their tragic past as a reason to build new bridges in Kirkuk.

In addition to the Kurds, influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and other key Shiite groups critical of Maliki’s policies have backed Maliki into a corner. However, Maliki is manipulating the sectarian divide and using all his manipulative tendencies and experience in clinging to power in Baghdad to fight his corner.

First Published On: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc.