Iraqi PM Maliki’s party says troop review was Barzani’s ‘Declaration of War’

By Zaidan al-Rubayi, Al-Khaleej (U.A.E.). — Al Monitor – 13-12-2012

Media back-and-forth escalated once again between the Iraqi political forces in Baghdad and Erbil following the visit made by President of Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani to inspect the Peshmerga forces in Kirkuk. The two conflicting sides discussed violations of the constitution, fears of a possible disaster that would affect two million people and a small mistake that could spark a war.

The State of Law Coalition led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that “the visit of the President of Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani and his son wearing a military helmet to inspect the battlefronts in Kirkuk province is a ‘declaration of war’ on all Iraqis not only Maliki, and even on President Jalal Talabani.”

Yassin Majid, a leader in the coalition, said that the visit is provocative, destroys all efforts of Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi to calm the crisis and is more dangerous than the visit of Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to Kirkuk. He added that the visit is reminiscent of visits made by Saddam Hussein and his son Uday to battlefields. Majid noted that this visit is a message that confirms that the dictator of Kurdistan wants to become a dictator over four provinces.

Deputies for the Iraqi bloc [Iraqi National List], led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, viewed Barzani’s visit to the province of Kirkuk and the inspection of the Peshmerga military units as an “escalation” and a sign that Barzani has no intention to calm the situation.

MP Abdallah al-Gharb said that Barzani’s visit to Kirkuk the night before yesterday [Dec. 10] and his inspection of the Peshmerga military units is a clear message that he has no intention of calming the situation. He saw Barzani’s visit and inspection of the military units as an escalatory message, [as if he were] preparing them for a declaration of war on the federal government. He noted that some police officers in Kirkuk escorted Barzani during the visit, though he had hoped that they had instead distanced themselves and not interfered in political affairs. President of Kurdish Regional Government Massoud Barzani visited the province of Kirkuk on Monday to inspect the Peshmerga forces stationed there.

MP Mohsen al-Sadoun, vice president of the Kurdistan Alliance bloc in the Iraqi parliament, rejected the comparison made by the State of Law MP Yassin Majid between Barzani and former President Saddam Hussein, describing it as intellectual deficiency on the part of Majid. He said that comparing the visit to that of Turkey’s foreign minister also reflects intellectual deficiency since the Turkish minister had obtained a visa from the Iraqi embassy in Ankara.

Saadoun said that the Iraqi constitution allows the president of the [Kurdistan] region — as well as the prime minister — to visit Kirkuk, since the president of the [Kurdistan] region is also commander-in-chief of the Peshmerga forces, which are part of the disputed areas. Saadoun described Kirkuk as “[part of] Kurdistan and waiting for a solution.” He said that the president of the [Kurdistan] region is visiting the Peshmerga forces as their commander-in-chief, noting that his talks were messages of peace aimed at avoiding bloodshed.

He added that the visit of the president of the [Kurdistan] region to Kirkuk — which is one of the disputed areas — is constitutionally and legally permissible, and the reason was to follow the affairs of [the province directly] from all the parties concerned. He noted that the same applies to the prime minister, who is the General Commander of the Armed Forces, and any other Iraqi official.

For its part, the Ministry of Peshmerga in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) warned of a possible “catastrophe” in the disputed areas.

The Peshmerga said in a statement, “Secretary General of the ministry, Lt. Gen. Jabbar Yawar, pointed to fears over a possible outbreak of fighting in the disputed areas during his meeting with the head of the United Nations Assistance Office for Iraq (UNAMI) office in Erbil, Sokol Conde.

The statement quoted Yawar as saying that a small mistake in the disputed areas could trigger a major disaster, as nearly 2,000,000 people live in these areas. He called on the United Nations to play a bigger role to prevent a major humanitarian disaster. Yawar stressed that the Kurdistan region has a firm conviction that problems are solved through dialogue, and that the region is making all possible efforts toward that end. He expressed hope that the federal government would abide by the constitution and the Iraqi law, and respect the agreements concluded between the Ministry of Peshmerga and the Federal Ministry of Defense.

Baghdad and Erbil so far have rejected calls to withdraw their forces stationed in the disputed areas, especially in Kirkuk. This raises fears that any spark would lead to a military confrontation between the two sides any moment.

A number of MPs for the province of Kirkuk called on the federal Ministry of Interior to instruct the security leaders in Kirkuk on the need to prevent the entry of militants to the province. MP Omar al-Jubouri from the Iraqi bloc said: The security forces in the province of Kirkuk must submit a special report to the federal government regarding the entry of militants into the province. He said that the entry of gunmen into the province portends a great catastrophe, and called on parties to avoid such a disaster. He noted that the entry of militants is a clear violation of the constitution, and warned supporters of armed groups to discontinue their actions.