Kirkuk chaos: mix of hypocrisy and diplomacy

Commentary Materials 18 June 2019 15:15 (UTC +04:00)
Unlike ordinary residents, for power brokers Kirkuk is of a particular interest not as a place to grow crops, raise the kids, spend holidays etc., but as one huge oil field that brings billions in profits.
Kirkuk chaos: mix of hypocrisy and diplomacy

Baku, Azerbaijan, June 18

By Azer Ahmadbayli – Trend:

Back in the nineteenth century, one of the world’s top philosophers warned: “Ultimately, an organized world, for all the relative compliance of its order with the conditions of existence, is doomed to the fierce struggle taking place between individuals and groups for the possession of material values, which is the source of the greatest suffering.”

Unlike ordinary residents, for power brokers Kirkuk is of a particular interest not as a place to grow crops, raise the kids, spend holidays etc., but as one huge oil field that brings billions in profits.

Forces, struggling for the control over this wealth, form a figurative pyramid. At the top there are economic and geopolitical interests of foreign oil giants and the countries they represent. In the middle of the pyramid there is the 140th article of the Iraqi Constitution, that is Baghdad-Erbil stand-off over the disputed territories. At the bottom, there is rivalry between the two main political powers of the Iraqi Kurdistan – the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). All the elements of the pyramid are tightly interconnected.

The global control over major energy sources is one of the strategic objectives of the United States. By influencing global oil pricing and controlling oil flows, the US can influence the entire global economy and weaken major competitors such as Russia and China.

Iraq is one of the world's third largest oil producers and among the top five exporters. The oil fields of Kirkuk, which are close to the EU – an ally of the United States, coupled with the “Kurdish factor” as an element of pressure on Iran and Turkey, make this region critical for the United States. It’s not accidental that the American troops are present in the region.

As for the relations between Baghdad and Erbil, on paper everything looks almost decent. Both sides periodically declare that only by joint efforts it will be possible to destroy the remnants of the Islamic State, restore the country and ensure the prosperity of all peoples living in Iraq, and resolve the disputes between Baghdad and Erbil within the framework of the Constitution.

In reality, the situation is a little different….

Leaders of the Kurdish autonomy claim that Baghdad is trying to change the demographic composition of the province, pursuing a policy of arabization of the population and displacement of the Kurds so as to create conditions for a favorable outcome of the future referendum on the disputed territories.

Indeed, there is a number of evidence for this. After October 2017, since Kirkuk was taken by Iraqi army and paramilitary militias, the Kurds have left many places of their residence in disputed areas and in particular in the outskirts of Kirkuk, fearing threats and arbitrariness from... can’t tell whether the Islamic State or the Shia militants or both.

Recently, attacks on Kurdish farmers, arson of farmlands, mainly Kurdish, have become more frequent. It is not clear who is behind this, but Erbil is sure that this is part of the plan for getting the Kurds out from the disputed provinces.

These terrorist attacks are the efforts of some parties to achieve political goals, said the statement of the administrative Council of KDP in Kirkuk-Garmiyan region.

For more than a year, since the change of power in Baghdad, the Kurds have been urging the new federal government to allow Peshmerga (security forces of the Kurdish Autonomy) into the disputed areas to prevent increased violence and ensure stability. They offer joint control over the province by Peshmerga and the Iraqi army, but Baghdad is still evading the move.

The Kurds would like, in one way or another, regain control over Kirkuk and other disputed territories. Some of them openly call Baghdad the enemy of the Kurds.

Diyari Hussein, a local representative of KDP in Kirkuk-Garmiyan, in connection with the nomination of candidates in Kirkuk Governor's elections told local media that Kirkuk and other Kurdish areas had come under the control of Kurdish enemies as a result of the betrayal of the PUK group on October 16.

Since Baghdad has a strong case, the Kurds can take action on this issue only diplomatically.

Finally, the relations between the two leading parties of the Kurdish Autonomy – KDP and PUK – are to be mentioned. Their history is full of drama. They call each other brothers, but there was a time when they took up arms against each other. As it was said, the relations between the two have soured after the surrender of Kirkuk in October 2017.

KDP says it became possible after a back-room deal between a group of PUK leaders and authorities in Baghdad, which resulted in the military takeover of the province by Iraqi army and Shia militias. PUK, in turn, blames its opponents from KDP for the loss of control over Kirkuk as a result of the 2017 Independence Referendum.

Sometimes, not ethnic, religious or separatist sentiments play a destructive role, but corruption.

So, Washington's flirting with both Baghdad and Erbil, bickering for the leadership between KDP and PUK, peaceful statements by Baghdad holding a baton ready, and Kurds holding a knife behind backs – all this may look like hypocrisy to an outside observer.

Such developments leave almost no chance for restoration of Iraq, nor for the solution to the problem of Kirkuk, and obviously no cessation of permanent chaos in the country.