Kurdish Parties Seen United Against Dijla Forces’ Push into Kirkuk

20/11/2012 RUDAW By HEVIDAR AHMED – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — After his return from Baghdad, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani issued a statement on the controversial Dijla Operations Command (DOC).”Bringing up the issue of the DOC at this sensitive time will not serve peace and security in the disputed areas,” Talabani said. “On the contrary, it will cause chaos, fear and insecurity.” The statement comes after Talabani repeatedly asked Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to halt the activities of the military command. Maliki ignored his calls and broadened the activities of the DOC instead.

When preparations for a ceremony related to the launch of the DOC were being made near Kirkuk province, Talabani was in Germany for medical reasons but called Maliki to ask that the ceremony not go ahead. Although the ceremony was postponed, it was carried out later on and the activities of the military command began officially. Initial reports about Maliki’s intentions to form a command with the purpose of militarily controlling the disputed areas came from the Asayish (security) forces of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). These reports were seen as baseless rumors by Kurdish groups. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) political bureau claimed that the military command would not be formed because “Maliki gave his word to Talabani.”

Ali Musawi, Maliki’s advisor, responded to Talabani’s concerns. “If the DOC is unconstitutional, then let His Excellency Talabani resort to constitutional methods to stop it. He can execute the constitution,” he said.

Musawi added, “Maliki has no intentions to dissolve or deactivate the DOC. It is Talabani’s right to express his opinion, but Maliki is the commander in chief of the Iraqi armed forces.” Some prominent members of Maliki’s Dawa Party have also criticized Talabani for his stance towards the DOC. Ali Allaq, a Dawa Party political bureau member, said, “I am amazed at Talabani’s comments that the DOC will cause sedition, discomfort and insecurity for the region.”

Saadi Ahmad Pira, a PUK political bureau member, said, “Talabani is concerned about the formation of the DOC because its mission is destruction. This force needs to be defined. We are not afraid of the DOC, but we are rather concerned about the mentality that exists behind it.” The KDP supports the stance of Talabani and described the act of forming this force as “playing with fire.” Spokesperson and member of the KDP political bureau, Jaafar Ibrahim, told Rudaw, “Talabani was never alone and has always been supported by Barzani and the KDP. Sometimes we might have had our differences, but in fateful matters such as Article 140 and the Kirkuk issue, KDP members support Talabani and the PUK.”

After Talabani prevented the effort to withdraw confidence from Maliki – brought forward by the KDP, Iraqiya List, Sadr Movement, Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) and Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal) — it was said that the KDP would not support Talabani in this case in Baghdad. But Ibrahim said, “The KDP will not leave Talabani alone in Baghdad as we have openly told Maliki that the DOC is a provocation and playing with fire.”

Pira praised the stance of the KDP towards Talabani. “We have all seen how Nechirvan Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), expressed his support to Talabani in Sulaimani province. Also, he gave the minister of Peshmerga, who’s a PUK member, the full authority to take whatever action he deems necessary.” The Iraqi central government and Maliki’s State of Law Coalition believe that the concerns of Kurds towards the DOC have been exaggerated. They insist that the DOC is not about the Kurds but the “terrorists” of Syria who are expected to enter Iraq. Allaq, who is also the chairman of the religious affairs committee in Iraqi Parliament, said, “We ask the Kurdish groups to sit and talk, and to state the source of their concerns regarding the DOC.”

He added, “Because the terrorists will come from Syria into Iraq through Mosul, Anbar, Diyala and Salahaddin in the future. This has been planned by Syria and Israel, and Turkey might support it as well.” Pira said, “Kirkuk shares no borders with other countries so the DOC should not be sent there. The DOC should have been sent to the Iraqi borders with Turkey and Syria instead of Kirkuk.” The attitude of Maliki towards the Kurdistan Region by forming the DOC has united various Kurdish groups such as the Change Movement (Gorran), the KIU and Komal, and made them side with KDP and PUK against Baghdad and the DOC.

Gorran did not side with the other Kurdish groups in their efforts to hold a non-confidence vote against Maliki. Sardar Abdullah, the Gorran bloc leader in Iraqi Parliament, said, “We foresaw this. We anticipated paying the price for not supporting the efforts to withdraw confidence from Maliki. Today is that day.”

He added, “This is how Maliki rewarded President Talabani for saving him from the non-confidence vote.”

Abdullah talked about the options now before the Kurds. “The Kurds need to practically take some steps. They should study all their options since Kirkuk is at stake,” he said.According to Najib Abdulla, the KIU bloc leader in Iraqi Parliament, if these policies of Maliki’s go ahead “then the Kurds must prepare for the worst. The best move is for Talabani to meet with all the Kurdish groups and unite.”

Komal sees this situation as an opportunity for Kurdish groups to demonstrate a united stance against Baghdad.

Muhammad Hakim, spokesperson and member of the Komal political bureau, said, “Now it is very necessary for the five Kurdish groups who have MPs in Baghdad to urgently discuss the DOC and issues with Baghdad, because there is unity among them regarding Maliki and the DOC.” Hakim thinks the Kurds should pressure Baghdad domestically and internationally by “sending representatives to Iran because it plays a big role in Iraq. It should also send representatives to Turkey and the United States to discuss these issues,” he said. Maliki has manipulated the kindness Talabani showed towards him,” Hakim added. “But if the Kurds unite then Maliki will not be able to face them.”

“Maliki wants make of himself a hero at the expense of the Kurds,” said Gorran MP Muhammad Kayani.”The dangers of the DOC are greater than what has been mentioned,” he said. “The DOC has been assigned not only for Kirkuk or the disputed areas. Rather, they want to push back the Kurds to the 36th latitude and leave behind the region which is rich with resources.” Kayani added, “This would jeopardize the position of the Kurds in Iraq. The failure of the efforts to withdraw confidence from Maliki made the Sunnis side with Maliki and made Maliki pose as an Arab hero. Maliki said that he wanted to become Jamal Abdulnasir.”