Political infighting splits Iraqi Kurdistan, could throw it into chaos

MOSCOW,—  5 June 2016 –  Iraqi Kurdistan may follow the example of Palestine which is now split into two parts, controlled by Hamas and Fatah, independent Kurdish political analyst Ramazan Osmanov told RIA Novosti. “We [Iraqi Kurdistan] are now at a crossroads, facing two options: we will either have the Kurdish parties agreeing on key issues, such as presidential elections, a system of governance, oil and gas and relations with Baghdad, or we are going to see a repetition of what happened to Palestine, one part of which is now ruled by Fatah and the other by Hamas,” Ramazan Osmanov said.

He added that in this case Iraqi Kurdistan will be ruled by two administrations – one on Erbil, and the other in Sulaimani, just like it was in the past.

Osmanov said that the latter scenario would be very likely if only the UN, the US and Russia don’t interfere to resolve the problem.

The split is fraught with a civil war centering on who gets the control over the oil-rich Kirkuk province.

“A large part of Kirkuk is now controlled by the armed forces of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan PUK, but there are also forces loyal to the Kurdistan Democratic Party KDP,” Osmanov said.

The region’s oil wealth is also being claimed by the Iraqi government, who would hate to lose a major source of income.

“This could ignite a full-scale civil war with Iraq, Iran and the al-Hashd-al-Shaabi group [Shiite militia] using it as a pretext for joining in the fray,” Osmanov warned.

He also mentioned the deep political and economic crisis Iraqi Kurdistan was now living through, stemming mainly from differences over the issue of a Kurdish presidency and the war with Daesh. More than half of local MPs are holding out for a parliamentary republic while about as many are advocating a presidential one.Ramazan Osdmanov said that a region-wide referendum and early presidential elections held the key to ending the stalemate.

The crisis erupted after Massoud Barzani, whose term as Kurdistan President ended on August 20, 2015 but refused to step down and remains unofficially in office. According to the law, Barzani cannot run for presidency anymore. The KDP party insists to extend Barzani mandate.Barzani has been accused by critics of amassing huge wealth for his family instead of serving the population. Barzani’s son is the Kurdistan region’s intelligence chief and his nephew Nechirvan Barzani is the prime minister.

Massoud Barzani said in March 2016 the day we have an independent Kurdistan, I will quit presidency. Kurdistan PM Nechirvan Barzani has removed four members of his cabinet from the Change (Gorran) Movement on October 13, 2015. Iraqi Kurdistan Parliament’s Speaker was prevented from entering Erbil city on October 11, 2015. Since then the Kurdish parliament has been suspended.

The expelled ministers were replaced on October 28, 2015 with KDP politicians.

The Gorran Movement accused the KDP of a monopoly all government’s positions in Erbil, and it does not believe in the principles of true partnership and and peaceful transfer of power.