Kurdish Leader Threatens to Hold a Referendum on Future of Kurdish-Iraqi Relations
In a move that can potentially unravel the balance of power in the region, Kurdish leader Massud Barzani has hinted at a break with the Iraqi central government. Barzani said the partnership that built a national unity government was now “completely non-existent and has become meaningless.” The Kurdish leader made the remarks during the Norouz (New Year) massage to the Kurds from Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan.
“We are committed to our alliance with the Shiites but not with this group of people who have monopolized power and with their policies have even marginalized other Shiites,” Barzani said. “It is time to say enough is enough. The current status of affairs in unacceptable to us and I call on all Iraqi political leaders to urgently try to find a solution. Otherwise, we will return to our people and will decide on whatever course of action that our people deem appropriate.” [AFP, 21 March].
The latter reference was a poorly veiled threat to hold a referendum in Kurdistan on its future within or independent of the Iraqi state.
Barzani accused Iraqi premier Nuri al-Maliki of monopolizing power and building an army loyal to him only.
“There is an attempt to establish a one-million-strong army whose loyalty is only to a single person,” Barzani said.
He also harshly criticized Maliki’s keeping powerful ministries under his portfolio.
“Where in the world can the same person be the prime minister, the chief of staff of the armed forces, the minister of defense, the minister of interior, the chief of intelligence and the head of the national security council?” he asked.
Maliki has yet to appoint permanent ministers of defense and interior, more than two years after parliamentary elections.
Kurdish MPs hold nearly a fifth of the seats in parliament, and Barzani’s Kurdish Alliance bloc has five cabinet posts in the national unity government formed in November 2010.
The central government and Kurdish regional authorities have been locked in protracted disputes over oil contracts with foreign oil firms and the status of a swathe of disputed territory around the northern oil hub of Kirkuk.
Source: AFP; 21 March 2012
Photo: Kurdish leader Massud Barzani next to the Kurdish National Flag / AFP