Is Iraq sustainable as it is now?
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is expected to return to Baghdad in a few days time after his important meeting in the northern town of Erbil, the center of the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), in with what we can call a quasi anti-al-Maliki front.
Before he left for his meeting in Erbil, Talabani had a meeting in Baghdad with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maiki in order to get clues about possible lines of reconciliation between him and those who accuse al-Maliki of trying to establish a one-man-rule in the country, which suffered a lot for decades under the similar rule of Saddam Hussein. Now after having positions of the Erbil group, Talabani is likely to search for a middle ground to keep Iraq together or at least get an understanding of whether it is a possible task. (He keeps in mind that his presidential deputy, Tariq Al Hasemi, of Sunni-origin, is currently in Turkey on the run from al-Maliki.)
On April 29 in Erbil Talabani met with Barzani, who had just carried out an important and detailed contact in the United States and then in Turkey, Eyad Allawi of the al-Iraqiya party, Parliamentary Speaker Osama Al Nujayfe (who joined the Iraqiya party recently), Muqtada al-Sadr of the strongly Shiite Sadriyun movement, who visited Tehran recently and discussed the Iraqi matters with top Iranian officials.
He did not hear anything he had not heard before. The to-be anti-al-Maliki front told him that al-Maliki should honor the former Erbil Agreement following the 2009 elections, and thus should appoint ministers to interior, defense, security and other top post he currently holds in his possession. Al-Maliki should let the hydrocarbons (oil and gas) law be voted on in the Parliament. The list goes on arguing al-Maliki should pay the salaries of the Peshmerges, the local security of the Kurdish region.
On the other hand, Sadr got a clear message from Tehran that Iran is, at least for the time being, supporting al-Maliki (who had paid a visit to Tehran before Sadr) and gives the utmost importance to its May 23 meeting with the P5+1 countries in Bagdhad on its nuclear program. Iran was keen to have the meetings in Baghdad if the continuing the Istanbul meeting held on April 11 was desired. The Baghdad location also works to underline Iran’s support for the Shiite-origin al-Maliki government. It is not likely that Sadr would object Malki rule for any cost. Talabani (who wants to leave no stones unturned behind him) and Barzani also know well that the Barack Obama administration does not want any additional problem which may lead up to armed conflict at least not before the presidential elections occur in the U.S. in November 2012.
Al-Maliki knows that as well. That enables him to tell to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan not to interfere in Iraqi affairs too much, implying that Baghdad is not a province of the Ottoman Empire any more.
Actually everyone is aware that al-Maliki is not going to move much toward any kind of real reconciliation, perhaps other than a few face-saving gestures of secondary importance.
So grows the question, which no boy dares to give the answer to in his mind: Is it possible to sustain Iraq as it is now? The answer is likely to affect all countries in the region, including Turkey, not only because of the Kurdish problem but because of Europe’s growing oil and gas needs, which could be supplied by Iraq’s Kurdish region as well.