What Really Happened In Iraqi Kurdistan?
The administrative staff of the KDP and YNK, whose main bodies are comprised of Barzani and Talabani families, who have claimed sovereignty in almost all areas of life in Iraqi Kurdistan, have acted disgracefully in abandoning the area and starting to blame each other, after Hashti Shaba forces took control of the “controversial territories.” That being said, all objective conditions were in place for this process to reach this dramatic point, and this result should not be surprising to anyone. When we look back upon what took place:
- Both Barzani and the more ideologically charged Talabani families, have emphasized a nationalist discourse targeting an independent Kurdish state whose crucial areas of life would be based on feudal tribal traditions.
- However, neither the political nor the economic infrastructure of the Iraqi Kurdistan bureaucracy was ripe for a referendum aimed at establishing an independent Kurdistan. There have been no investments that could sustain themselves in the face of an embargo other than some hollow infrastructure-based construction investments. Politically, all the regional powers (incl. Turkey, Iran, Iraq) warned from the beginning that they would force sanctions in case of a referendum, while global powers were issuing non-descript statements that aimed at keeping the ball squarely in Barzani’s court.
- There was no consensus on the declaration of intentions between the political parties and the public, which is vital for such an initiative to be successful. The majority of YNK supporters except Kosret Resul Ali, who is closer to the KDP despite being a member of YNK, Kirkuk governor Necmeddin Kedim and Mete Bextiyar expressed intentions to postpone the referendum. While the KDP and YNK meeting in which the referendum was expected to be announced was in session on 24 September 2017 in Herwel, Pawel Talabani, who represents the majority of the YNK, announced that the referendum was postponed. The statement was quickly withdrawn, but not before the message was given the public that they did not favor the referendum. It is a well-known fact that the control of a region like the oil-rich Kirkuk, for which global and regional powers are risking war, could not be controlled with a simple unilateral declaration of will.
- It was already known that no power would accept the inclusion of Kirkuk in an “Independent Kurdistan” referendum, while the referendum on its administration, which should have been carried out in 2007 but was not implemented by Baghdad, is still valid.
Who needed this referendum despite these given circumstances?
- The KDP Peshmergas who, like they to today, fled in August 2014, when the people of Sengal (Sincar) were handed over to the ISIS butchers, suffered a great loss of reputation,
- Barzani, whose term as the region president had ended in 2015 and did not allow for new elections,
- Barzani, who effectively staged a coup by shutting down the Parliament and refusing the Head of Parliament entry to Hewler.
Developments like these led to a political crisis in the Iraqi Kurdistan region for which Barzani and KDP were the responsible parties. A referendum was a way out of this crisis. The answer as to why and how Barzani and the KDP decided to hold the referendum despite these circumstances lies in the following:
- Barzani is a typical Middle East leader,
- The assumption that there will be no intervention by either Turkey or Iran due to the Sunni-Shiite rivalry,
- To interpret the positions of global powers (USA and Russia) who did not take a clear stance as a gesture in their favor,
- The belief that the blocked funds in Turkey (allegedly to be 75 billion dollars) would somehow be handed over to Barzani.
In the end, the referendum was held, and regional powers began to implement sanctions gradually. While Turkey, Iran and Iraq agreed to perform joint military exercises, close border gates, and airspace, a meeting was held at a hotel in Dukan District of Sulaymaniyah on October 15, 2017 with the Iraqi President Fuad Masum, Mesut and Necirvan Barzani of KDP, Pawel Talabani and Mete Bextiyar of YNK along with the Commander of Jerusalam Brigade (which carries out Iran’s foreign operations and is connected to Iran Revolutionary Guards) Quasim Suleyman in attendance. The resolutions of this meeting have not been made public, but it is highly rumored that to expel the growing criticisms of the referendum, they have come to agree that the Kurds will have to withdraw from regions outside the 36th parallel.
Immediately following the Dukan meeting, the KDP communicated to YNK that it would not withdraw from the crucial oil producing Bay Hasan and Havana regions of Kirkuk. YNK declared that it would not send its own peshmergas to death for KDP’s interests, and that it would therefore remain committed to the Dukan agreement. In line with these developments, Baghdad mobilized the Hashti Shaba forces who were on standby in Tuzhurmatu. As it is commonly known, the Iraqi Army, along with Hashdi Shabi, began military operations in all regions outside the Parallel. The KDP Peshmergas who suffered 86 casualties and over 100 injuries in the conflict had no choice but to withdraw with Hashti Shabi forces quickly filling in the now empty areas.
According to the Dukan Agreement; the peshmerges of the 36th parallel would withdraw and following Iraqi Army’s control of the region, the administration and security of these cities would be transferred over to the KDP and YNK. However, after KDP’s insistence of holding on to the oil regions in Kirkuk, the Baghdad administration decided to exclude the KDP and reallocate the control of these regions solely to YNK. Since 18 October, Baghdad has withdrawn the Hashti Shabi forces, leaving the city centers and the 17 districts in Kirkuk to the will of YNK. They further set up a dual government loyal to Baghdad for the administration of districts in which Turks and Arabs are a majority.
Baghdad took further actions to assign the administration of Maxmur and Sengal which were under KDP’s control to YNK, while they instituted Iraqi Armed Forces to provide the security in the region. KDP in retaliation, pulled its forces out of the co-joined Peshmerga army it had formed with YNK and marched them to Hewler border. Currently KDP has massed all its forces at the Hewler-Dohuk border. The KDP and YNK continue to blame each other for what has taken place.
What really needs to be blamed and condemned, however, is the concept of Kurdish nationalism perpetrated by the KDP and YNK, and the 20-year old efforts to create a new field of exploitation by use of tribal Kurdish bourgeoisie.
The saying “Adventure ends in surrender” was not said in vain, after all.