Experts Pessimistic About Iraq Future

MESOP : A recent German expert – policy made easy : “Most important to do for Kurds now is cooperation with Baghdad”

By Yerevan Saeed – 27.8.2014 – RUDAW –  WASHINGTON DC – It would be “disastrous for Iraq” and the world if the new Iraqi prime minister fails in his efforts to form a government, Dlawer Ala’Aldeen, head of Erbil’s Middle East Research Institute, warned at a debate in Washington.

Speaking at an event at the Wilson Center titled “Turkey, Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government,” he noted that the prime minister designate, Haidar Abadi, had until September 10 to announce a new government.  “For him and for Iraq, as well as the international community, failure is not an option,” said Ala’Aldeen. “It would be disastrous for all stakeholders; and again failure is a real possibility.” “Abadi has been working hard to convince the Sunnis and Kurds to support his government. But he has a difficult task.”

“Iraqis have been dealing with a series of never ending crises — one of which is the war against the IS (Islamic State) and the formation of the government,” said Ala’Aldeen, who has served as a minister in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

“They face crisis in the face of a failed political process in Baghdad and a non-functioning state that is divided and on the brink of disintegration,” he warned, referring to Kurdish plans for independence. He stressed that for the Kurds to remain part of Iraq, local, regional and international guarantees are crucial, as well as greater autonomy for the KRG. “Kurdish leaders are serious about taking part in Iraq and they are actively engaged, but they have conditions and preconditions,” Ala’Aldeen explained.

“Kurds want greater sovereignty essentially within the boundaries of Iraq, they want to retain autonomous decision making, the economy, airspace, international relations. Otherwise, they would see no reason to reconstruct Iraq and for them being vulnerable,” he said. A Kurdish bloc is currently in Baghdad, where a new government is being negotiated.  Ala’Aldeen said the Kurds were taking part in the talks in Baghdad “out of necessity and out of lack of choice.”Referring to a decision by Baghdad to cut KRG payments from the national budget for months, he said “it’s not comprehended (by Kurds) how the central government stops people and Peshmerga from the funds at a time of war against terror.”

Saban Kardas, president of Turkey’s Middle East Strategic Research Center (ORSAM) and another speaker at the debate, agreed that Abadi has a difficult task ahead.

“Abadi has a good chance to build coalitions, but there are lots of challenges. He has to work with its own Shiite groups, Sunnis and the Kurds,” he explained.

He also said that Turkey had been “working behind the scenes” to nudge the political process in Baghdad.

Kardas described Erbil-Ankara relations as a Turkish success story in the Middle East. He added that Kurdish leaders are less enthusiastic about independence after events in Mosul, which fell to the IS in June. “The position has been more towards Kurdish self-determination within a unified Iraq,” he said. Bulent Aras, a Turkish scholar at the Wilson Center, argued that the territorial integrity of Iraq is impossible to maintain in the face of unfolding events.

“Iraqi partition is inevitable. Sooner or later Kurds would have a state,” he said.

He argued that the KRG has to embrace minorities by giving them local power and voices, if they are to accept Kurdish control.“If Iraq falls apart, what would happen to the Turkmens?” he asked.  “The optimal solution for them (Turkmens) is an agreement with the Kurds that it would provide them with some kind of governing rights, veto powers that would go beyond the notion of friendship,” advised Aras. He said that Turkish-Kurdish relations have improved, but this has not been translated into a better condition for the Turkmens under the KRG.

“Turkey and KRG have come closer. But this closeness has not reflected in KRG-Turkmen relations. It has not given them self-confidence.”