Silence & Suspicions in Baghdad over Kurdish National Conference

By RUDAW – By ASO FISHAGI – 8.8.2013 – BAGHDAD—As Kurdish leaders across the Middle East prepare for a National Conference due later this month, some Iraqi leaders have voiced concern about the true intentions of the meeting.

An official from Iraq’s ruling State of Law coalition says that Baghdad has no objection to such a conference as long as it does not debate the separation of Kurdistan, and that outcome of the talks do not mean  a threat to Iraq or the region. “If a National Conference is to find a better life for Kurds in Iraq and the region, we have no issues with that,” State of Law spokesman Ali Shalla told Rudaw. “The era of dictatorship and marginalization is over and no one should be able to control what we want to do.”

However, if the intention is to separate Kurdistan from Iraq, then Baghdad will certainly take a stance, Shalla added. He said that the organizers should invite some Iraqi MPs to attend the event.“We hope that some Iraqi MPs, especially those who are known to be friends of the Kurds, get invited to the conference so that Baghdad knows what is discussed there and avoids any suspicions,” he said.

Ghafour Makhmouri, spokesperson of the National Conference, said that more than 300 foreign dignitaries are invited to the conference, among them the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

“A number of Arab figures who have supported the Kurdish cause will also be invited,” Makhmouri said. Apart from Shalla’s comments, Baghdad and Iraqi leaders in general have so far chosen silence over the event, which has been announced for August 24. Hashim al-Haboubi, a Baghdad-based political analyst says, “Baghdad’s silence towards this conference has different reasons: The main one is  that Maliki’s government is bogged down with the security situation” in Iraq.

Preparation for Iraq’s parliamentary elections next year, said al-Haboubi, is another reason Iraqi leaders have no time to comment on the Kurdish conference.Haboubi, who is also the secretary general of the Iraqi Republican Assembly, says, “The Kurds should break their shyness and announce their conferences and invite anyone they want more openly and ahead of time.”

The planned National Conference is expected to bring Kurdish parties scattered across the Middle East closer to each other, but its outcome may also sour relations between Baghdad and Erbil in the end. “Kurds now need a united voice more than ever before,” says al-Haboubi. “And I expect this conference to change a lot for the Kurdish freedom movements in this region.”