An amicable divorce?
It would be great fun and entertainment to write and speak about Turkish showbiz stars’ highly documented, high-drama divorce cases these days. All of a sudden, women with six-digit incomes have become “women-against-domestic-violence” crusaders. But let’s pencil them in for another week. The divorce we are talking about is in Iraq. And it could easily get messy.
One of Iraqi Kurdistan’s leading politicians, Hemin Hawrami, the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) foreign relations bureau, spoke openly about an “amicable divorce” with Baghdad during a speech he gave at the Washington Institute this week.
According to Rudaw’s English website, “This [independence] is a process that is happening, and it’s going to happen and the referendum we are going to hold very soon, I mean in less than two years, is for all Iraqi Kurdistan citizens,” Hawrami said. “Frankly speaking, Iraq is broken.”
Hawrami also said the current system of governance in the Middle East has failed and a new system based on socio-ethnic realities should be a premise for a new map of the region. The KRG has a legitimate reason for these arguments. Despite all the peacemaking efforts through U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s office, the Kurdish region’s economy is struggling to meet its basic services, even though it is sitting on oil wealth.
The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Iraqi Kurdistan’s oil deal is about to collapse and mutual trust between Arbil and Baghdad has deteriorated. “If the deal does collapse, it could rupture the fragile unity that Iraq relies on to fight Islamic State, which took over more than a quarter of the country in a startling blitz last summer,” wrote the WSJ. “The KRG’s economy is facing a fiscal crunch that threatens its ability to support the Kurdish fighters who have taken a leading role in combating the extremist insurgency.”
According to the December agreement, the Kurds were to sell 550,000 barrels of oil each day through Iraq’s SOMO. The Kurds say they instead exported most of their oil independently in June, because Baghdad was giving them less than their share of the budget.
In Washington, Mr. Hawrami put it in more blunt terms. “Baghdad claims they don’t have cash, but they have cash for Shiite militias.” Hawrami said, claiming each Shiite militant gets $800 but peshmergas get nothing.
Mr. Hawrami’s words should normally have rang more alarm bells in Ankara than the Democratic Union Party’s (PYD) takeover of Tal Abyad. But the Turkish government and the Foreign Ministry is observing these developments with a secret joy. After all, the Barzani flag may be more popular in Turkey’s southeast than in its native lands these days. Ankara sees the KRG as a “Sunni, conservative partner more or less like the Ak Party.” Goran, and/or PYD, on the other hand, are open challengers to its establishment. If Iraqi Kurdistan splits off and declares independence, Ankara thinks it will be the main beneficiary.
That is why one should not be too surprised to see the coalition talks switch to a possible AK Party-CHP cabinet. Turkey’s choices on the Kurdish issue are becoming limited in number, and this may have nothing to do with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) or with PYD.
To quote Captain Renault and Rick from the movie Casablanca, an amicable divorce “may be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”