Friday, March 13, 2009

Iraqi army troubles Kirkuk

Occupying lands infuriate Kurdish owners
By Ako Muhammed

Reports show hints on Arab-Kurd confrontations in the controversial Kirkuk province in near future if the Americans pulled out without leaving the issue resolved. And Kurds accuse the army for practicing actions adapted by the former system.
“The coming of the Iraqi army division 12 now in Kirkuk is a repetition of holding a security belt had been setup by former system in order to separate the province from Kurdistan Region,” Sirwan Kakaee, a Kurdish lawmaker in the Iraqi parliament told the Globe.
Kakaee who smells political aims behind curtains explained that according to the article 9 of the constitution, the army establishments must not be used for political reasons and should not interfere within local administrations. That division’s structure is “unbalance” and it involves fewer Kurdish elements, he said.
Meanwhile, the Kirkuk Deputy Governor Rakan Al-Juburi, an Arab, accused Kurdish forces standing against deploying Iraqi army troops in the province.
“The division 12 was decided to control the Kirkuk province. When the division wanted to deploy, confrontation happened. And the confrontation was from parties and not by people or the government in Kirkuk, said Al-Juburi. He added that the army division had received orders to reach the green lines around Kirkuk; when they tried to carryout the orders, they found opposition by Kurdish parties which use “militias and Peshmarga illegally outside the Kurdistan Region and this is violating to the laws and constitution.”
Besides, spokesman for the Kurdistan Peshmarga Leadership, General Jabar Yawar declined any confrontations taken place between the Peshmarga and the Iraqi army in Kirkuk.
On his part, the Peshmarga official smoothed of the fear and assured, “the Kurdistan region is a part of Iraq State; the establishments in the region are the continuation of the Federal Iraq State establishments.
Above all, the Kurdistan Region Government minister for Peshmarga Affairs sheikh Jafer Mustafa announced they will not pullout Kurdish forces from the disputed areas, referring to Kirkuk and Mosul, because “there is no political agreement calls on withdrawal.”
“The Peshmarga stays there and we will not withdrawal before they are normalized and their problems are settled; and we will defend them in case of threats of security problems,” he told the Italian AKI news agency on Thursday.
Mustafa didn’t expected combats to happen “because the security task in Kirkuk and Mosul provinces are still controlled by the American forces.”

A confrontation story
When U.S. Col. Ryan Gonsalves strapped on his helmet and body armor and climbed into his mine-resistant vehicle on a recent Saturday afternoon, he wasn't heading to battle. The commander was rushing off to mediate the latest dispute between the Kurds, who dominate the local government, and the Shiite Muslim Arab-led Iraqi army, which is trying to assert its authority in this contested area in northern Iraq, the Mcclachy journalist group reported on Monday.
The paper also warned that if the U.S. troop pullout without leaving a solution, the Kirkuk issue could explode.
“The political battle between Baghdad's Shiite-dominated government and the Kurdish-controlled north is almost certain to be the biggest hot-button issue in Iraq in the coming years. Despite their fiery differences, the two sides agree on this: A full-fledged civil war will break out if the matter goes unresolved,” the Washington based newspaper reported.
The paper also quoted local Kurdish officials saying that the Iraqi army frequently overstepped its bounds, by firing at them or occupying buildings. The mayor of Dibbis, in Kirkuk province, said he'd received hundreds of calls from residents saying that they feared for their lives.
"That's why I want the coalition to help," said Mayor Hadi Mustafa, whose son, the American military and Iraqi police say, later was shot and wounded in the leg by unknown gunmen. "I don't want there to be a civil war."
Gonsalves said that the next three months are "very, very important," he said, and above all he advised the officials to keep their cool.
"You must have calm heads like you had today," he said. "If a leader gives a bad order, it can resonate throughout the whole organization."
In another side, the municipality chief of Dibbis, Omer Kakil accused that Iraqi army with occupying lands belong to Kurdish families.
“They occupy places had been occupied by former army and these lands belong to Kurds… and they have ownership certificates,” he said in an interview with Radio Sawa.

The Kurdish Globe

Kurdistan elections may delay

Necessary amendments still needed to launch for the elections

BY Ako Muhammed

Kurdistan Parliament Speaker Adnan Mufti announced Tuesday that The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI) may decided for delaying the Kurdistan parliamentary election that was been supposed to on the coming May. He explained that the delay can be for a month or two and the reason is that suggested amendments are needed to be completed on the general law in the region.

“Delaying the elections is an issue within the authority of the IECI which will deliver its opinion about the issue. We are in contact with it (the IECI) although it has declared it needs three months from the first day of receiving the elections law,” stated Mufti during a press conference held after a session of the parliament. The session discussed amendments demanded by the Kurdistan region Presidency on the elections law. It also discussed a demand offered by ten parliament members who called for adapting open lists system in stead of closed ones in the elections which are dated to May 19.

The parliament speaker explained that offering the law to the electoral commission will delay because of the wanted amendments. He added that in case of approving the ten parliament members’ demand for open lists system was approves, and then it requires longer time for reviewing the whole law. But he assured, “if the commission had to delay the elections, then cannot be longer than two months.
Pointing finger to a demand by the presidency which asked for authorizing the Kurdistan IECI office to run the election, Mufti explained that the commission in the region is a only an office belonged to the IECI based in Baghdad. “If we want our own commission, it requires issuing a law for it and the dedicating private budget and employees for it,” he added.

Also, allowing the Kurdistan people outside Iraq to take part in the elections is an issue must be met by the IECI, Mufti said.

The parliament’s works end by completing four years and elections must be held, stated Mufti and declared, “it (the parliament) will not lose legitimacy because of a reason out of control.” However, the parliament will not be able to issue law after June 4, when the four years complete. Still the parliament can remain for watching the government works and the people’s problems during that period.

Any possible delay is not because of political hinders but it is related to technical preparations. The speaker declined if the Kurdistan patriotic Union (PUK) internal crises have influence on delaying the elections.

“We haven’t received any demand of that kind and never heard about it. Also in the parliament does not halt its process because of a problem happens somewhere,” assured Mufti and expressed hope for holding the elections on date and if there was delays, not to be more than a week.

On early February, the Kurdistan Region Presidency returned the recently amended elections law to the parliament suggesting for extra amendments. The presidency’s main concern were authorizing Kurdistan Commission to run the election and also to allow Kurdistan people living abroad to take part in the elections.

The Kurdish Globe

Monday, March 9, 2009

Kurds want disputes with Baghdad settled before U.S. forces pullout

By Ako Muhammed

Iraqi Kurds are not worried about earlier pullout of the U.S. forces to cause conflicts between the Kurdistan Region and the federal government in Baghdad; but they desire settling internal key problems before the promised withdrawal, said a Kurdish political leader.

"I have come to speak to you about how the war in Iraq will end," President Barack Obama announced that the all combating troops, nearly 90.000 soldiers will be withdrawn by august 2010.

The U.S. President Obama’s statement on February 27 alerted Iraqis to depend on them selves in protecting their country. Iraqis reacted in warmly welcoming the decision while the Kurds reminded of ending internal problems before the withdrawal comes true.

“President Obama’s statement addresses the American discourse which is worried about their forces’ presence in Iraq,” explained Sadi Ahmed Pira, a Kurdish leader. According to him, Kurds realizes the new U.S. administration’s concerns for fulfilling electoral campaign promises of pulling out forces from Iraq and also that Washington now faces other challenges such as the world economic crises.

“The withdrawal comes within the framework of the Iraqi-American security agreement” which will take place gradually and will consider the Iraqi security situations, said Pria who is a high rank leader in the President Jalal Talabani’s party, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan or the PUK.

In an interview with the Globe, Pira described the media reports which expressed of Kurdish leaders’ worry in reaction to the withdrawal decision as “rumors” and he explained that, “in case of any unexpected (negative) development in Iraq, the withdrawal schedule will be impacted as it is set in the agreement.”

Meanwhile, he didn’t hide that the Kurds want the disputes with the federal government in Baghdad to be ended within the few years of the American forces presence.

However, The PUK leader does not see the presence of the American forces in Iraq as a guarantee to lead in achieving Kurds’ demands, but he rather thinks that, “the Iraqi constitution and the long-term agreements between the Iraqi political parties are the guarantee for the future of Iraq as well as right policies taken by Kurds and other Iraqi sides.”

According to Kurdish officials, in stead of military presence, Washington’s political supports are more crucial for Iraq and Kurds at the current stage.

In an earlier reaction, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s representative to Washington Qubad Talabani reportedly stated that “the American forces cannot leave a stable Iraq without solving the disputes.” He explained that despite the Iraqi security improvements, there are several essential political issues remained disputed about and require efforts by the United States, the Iraqi federal government, and the Kurdistan and the other Iraqi parties.

"I restate that the role of the United States should be to help resolve the problems in Iraq such as Article 140, the oil law, and the law on the distribution of its oil wealth," KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said during a press conference in Erbil in the last month.

Five committees formed between Baghdad and Erbil are working on settling main issues of financial problems and oil and gas law, Kurdistan forces duties and rights, disputable areas, and Iraq’s foreign policies.

On Iraqi level, several governmental and political officials welcomed president Obama’s statement for earlier withdrawal from Iraq.

“the government and the parliament welcome the early withdrawal of the American forces from Iraq and the Iraqi forces will be capable to fill the security gap after the American forces withdrawal from the country,” said Hassan al-Sanid, a Shiite member of the parliament’s committee of security and defense.

Currently there are nearly 142.000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq. President Obama promised during his electoral campaign for pulling their troops within 16 months from taking in office. According to the Iraqi-American security agreement, the U.S. forces should pullout due to the end of 2011.

And even after the drawdown, a sizable U.S. force of 35,000 to 50,000 U.S. troops will stay in Iraq under a new mission of training, civilian protection and counterterrorism.

This report has already been published by the Kurdish Globe

Could De Mistura ‘pour water on fire’ this time?

UN delegation meets with local officials over Kirkuk

 The U.N. special envoy to Iraq on Wednesday ended his two-day visit to Kirkuk where he discussed the issue of implementing article 140 as well as the upcoming provincial elections in the disputed territories, officials said.

 The UN envoy headed by Staffan De Mistura separately met with Kirkuk governor, Abdul-Rahman Mustafa, head of the provincial council, Rizgar Ali, along with the political blocs in the province.

 At a press conference in Kirkuk before his leave, De Mistura made clear about the results of his meetings in the city.

 “Kirkuk issue is very complicated and it is an internal affair; and we help the people of the city to reach solutions about it,” stated De Mistura and assured that they work according to the Iraqi constitution.

 He announced that after the expected local election at end of the coming January special committees will be formed for finding suitable solution to the article 23 of the Iraqi provincial councils election law.

The law passed on 24 of the last September contains procedures for holding the local elections in Kirkuk province.

“We don’t want to complicate the issues but we will work for writing future reports and will offer them to different sides in order to solve the complications,” he added.

 Muhammad Kamal, a Kurdish member from the Brotherhood List of the Kirkuk provincial council said, “During the meeting with the Brotherhood, we criticized the sluggishness of De Mistura’s works and the delay in releasing his reports on Kirkuk.”

 The UN envoy was supposed to publish a report in November on the current circumstances in Kirkuk in an attempt to pave the way for the execution of article 140 of the Constitution. Many hope the implementation of the article will settle the differences between Erbil and Baghdad over the places known as the disputed areas.  

Regarding the delay, de Mistura had announced earlier that he is in the country “to pour water on fire and not oil on it." De Mistura also said that the normalization process would begin after local elections set for January next year.

On May 5 the UN envoy announced his first report suggesting Hamdaniya and Mandali to remain within Baghdad’s administrative rule, while it gave the Kurdistan Regional Government the administrative right to Akre and Makhmur towns.

The other two UN reports which also include Kirkuk have not yet been released.

The Brotherhood list member also pointed out that the meeting also addressed the issue of carrying out article 23 of the provincial elections law that puts special mechanisms into effect for local elections in Kirkuk. The UN official, furthermore, discussed the article 140 of the constitution with the Kirkuk officials.

“De Mistura announced that the UN attempts to keep article 140 valid despite the fact that most of the Iraqi powers consider it a dead article. He regards it (the article) as the best solution to settle the issue for the city,” said Rebwar Talabani, another member of the Brotherhood during the meeting with the head of Kirkuk provincial council

Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution calls on normalizing situations, holding a census, and then holding a referendum in the disputed areas. The Iraqi government failed to fulfill the steps on time, which should have been the end of 2007.

Both Erbil and Baghdad in last June agreed on U.N. input of offering technical support to solve the issue.

All the meetings of de Mistura with the Kirkuk officials were in closed rooms where reporters were not allowed.