Talks Break Off Between Kurdish and Iraqi Military Commanders

Baghdad Keny Hanly – digitaljournal – 2.12.2012 – Talks in Baghdad between Kurdish and Iraqi military commanders broke down on Thursday just two days after the Prime Minister Maliki had announced that the two sides had agreed to pull back their forces in disputed areas.

As reported in an earlier Digital Journal article, relations between Iraqi Kurdistan and the central government in Baghdad have become tense as both Kurdish peshmerga and central government troops occupy disputed areas together.The president of Iraqi Kurdistan has described the deployment of Iraqi central government forces in the disputed regions as a plot against the Kurds. He promised that Kurdish forces would deter this “militarism”. The conflict comes as opponents to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are trying to mount a no-confidence vote. There have been high-profile corruption charges recently against the Baghdad government and.Al-Maliki has alienated the Sunni opposition and even sentenced the former Sunnii vice-president to death in absentia. Barham Salih, former Kurdish prime minister said:

    “We believe this is a deliberate policy by Baghdad to divert attention from the government’s political failures and its deepening crisis, including corruption.”

Prime minister al-Maliki says that the new security operations center that oversees three northern provinces was needed because of a worsening security situation in the area. There have been frequent attacks of late in Iraq by terrorist groups. However, Kurds interpret the movement of troops into disputed areas, under the Dijla Operations Command, as a declaration of hostilities.

Even though U.S. troops have withdrawn from Iraq, al-Maliki called on U.S. Lt. General Robert Caslan to mediate in the talks between the central government and the Kurds. Caslan is in charge of the U.S. embassy’s office of security cooperation in Iraq. A tentative agreement had been hammered out by commanders on the two sides but the agreement was not approved. No new talks had been scheduled as of Friday. The Kurds are demanding that there be a review of Baghdad’s new Dijla Operations Command, seen by many as part of al-Maliki’s moves to centralize power. There is division within al-Maliki’s coalition government with the influential Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr speaking out against the prime minister.

By Ken Hanly