Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sectarian conflict and Kurdish demands stymie formation of new Iraqi government

After a long struggle, the Iraqi parliament was able to choose a new speaker, a Sunni, and a new president, a Kurd, and finally after much friction a new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, a Shia.

In a statement on Saturday, Salim al-Jabouri, speaker of the Iraqi parliament, denounced as "terrorists" the Shia armed group suspected of killing at least 73 people inside a Sunni mosque . After rejecting al-Abadi's nomination at first, the present prime minister Nouri al-Maliki finally gave in to pressure both internal and external to give up his bid for another term. He was promised a role of some sort in any new government. However, al-Abadi was left with the difficult task of forming a new government from groups that are at loggerheads with one another. 
Now a mass killing at a mosque in which at least 73 people were killed has derailed the process of forming a government entirely. In protest at the attack Sunni politicians suspended talks designed to form a new government. Salim al-Jabouri, the speaker and leading Sunni politician denounced the Shia group believed responsible for the attacks as terrorists. He said: "There are those who want to thwart the political process. They are targeting the Iraqi society and its social structures." Both Jabouri ajnd Deputy Prime MInister Saleh al-Mutlak are demanding that present prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and his Shia political allies hand over those responsible for the attack within two days and also compensate families of victims. 
The new prime minister al-Abadi who will take over from al-Maliki once he forms a government also spoke out against the attack:"I strongly condemn the killing of civilians and worshippers in Diyala province and I call on the citizens to reject these attempts by the enemies of Iraq to exploit the incident in order to stir up strife between the sons of the same homeland." Local sources say the attack by the Shia militia may have been in response to a roadside bomb attack that targeted a recruitment campaign of the same militia. 
An Al Jazeera correspondent remarked: "Everyone has been terrified that this could be the incident that could spark another civil war. What we have seen in the past here is that Shia militias and Sunni fighters come in where there is a security vacuum, and that is certainly what we are seeing in Iraq." This event is just one of a number of incidents that show the rising sectarian violence that will make formation of any new government difficult. Back in July Shia militia executed 15 Sunni Muslims and hung them on poles in a public square in the town of Baquba according to police. According to Human Rights Watch(HRW) during the month of July alone Iraqi security forces executed more that 255 prisoners during July in retaliation for atrocities committed by the Islamic State rebels. 
In many areas Sunnis cooperate with the IS. Events such as these will no doubt lead to more alliances with IS in Sunni areas. The Shia and western countries as well as Iran all see IS as simply a terrorist organization to be destroyed. However, many Sunni's will fight against IS only if the Iraq government changes its treatment of the Sunnis. Ahmed al-Dulaimi, the governor of Anbar province that is mostly controlled by IS said: “The only way to fight ISIS is to support the citizens who lost their dignity and their rights under the old government".  
 Not everyone agrees that the attack was carried out by Shia militia members. Some Shia leaders including the cleric and politician Moktad al_Sadr claimed that the attack was an attempt by IS to create an escalation in sectarian violence and said it had the "explicit touch of ISIS". If al-Sadr is correct, the attack worked as intended by IS.
 Even if the Sunni and Shia politicians are able to overcome their differences, the Kurds also may create difficulties that could block formation of a government. The Kurds have occupied new territory since the offensive by IS.They now control the city of Kirkuk and area and have no intention of giving control back to the central government. There are certain demands that the Kurds have that they demand be addressed before they even discuss what their role in a new government will be:
 The negotiators are making several demands of the new government, including implementing Article 140, sending the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) its share of Iraq’s oil revenue, arming the Peshmerga forces and settling disputes over oil in the Kurdistan Region, said Najib Balatayi, one of the Kurdish delegates in Baghdad.  
Another Kurdish negotiator, Zana Rustay said: “We showed that we aren’t in a hurry to form the new government; we are more in a hurry to have our conditions met".

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