Addressing Roots of Erbil, Sulaymaniyah Disputes, US Motivation to Reduce Tension

2023/02/15 | interview, political, top news

Strategic Council Online - Interview: A university professor of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, saying that the main difference between the two main parties of the Kurdistan Region is rooted in their power-seeking desire and the extent of their political domination, adding: Disputes such as the budget and control over disputed areas are the main difference the two main parties of Kurdistan have with the central government in Baghdad, and such deep differences do not seem to be easily resolved.

Dr. Davood Ahmadzadeh, in an interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, referred to the recent political differences between Erbil and Sulaymaniyah and the US effort to resolve those differences, and called the problems between the two main parties of Kurdistan, the Democratic Party led by Masoud Barzani and the Patriotic Union Party led by Jalal Talabani’s relatives as  wide-ranging, adding: The areas under the influence of the Kurdistan Democratic Party are mostly in the southern areas and in Kirkuk, and other areas that are less important and are not considered as strategic are in the area of influence of the Patriotic Union.

He stated that the Democratic Party, unlike the Patriotic Union, takes decision-making in the party in a more coherent manner, and added: Based on the personality and individualism created in the party led by Masoud Barzani, there is little need for consultation, and Barzani has been an undisputed person in the party for a decade; however, after the loss of Jalal Talabani, the Patriotic Union did not have that decisive leadership, and even regarding the independence of the Kurdistan Region, after the collapse of the Baathist regime and the US attack on Iraq and the subsequent consequences, we have not seen a strong will in Jalal Talabani’s party.

The professor of international relations considered one of the differences between the democratic parties and the Patriotic Union to be their lack of independence and the impossibility of their understanding in this regard and said: Part of the difference between them is related to the type of relations and connections with influential countries in the region, including Turkey and Iran. The Democratic Party, which has the most authority in the Kurdistan Regional Government, has established a very strong relationship with Turkey. Turkey, with an aim of exploiting the energy resources of the Kurdistan Region, most wanted the independence of that region; but the Patriotic Union, which has had historical and long-standing relations with Iran, except for Iran, its relations with other countries are in some kind of confusion and it has not yet reached a result in the field of gaining independence.

Ahmadzadeh pointed to the criticism announced by the Patriotic Party regarding lack of transparency of policies and its emphasis on the need to reorganize the internal situation of Kurdistan and resolve some issues and coordinate with Baghdad, and continued: The Patriotic Party emphasizes that the Democratic Party wants not only to dominate over the Kurdistan Region, but also to take over all the important positions in Baghdad. This dispute was one of the issues that delayed the formation of the government in Iraq by a year; because the Democratic Party wanted the post of Iraqi President, while this post always went to the Patriotic Union. In any case, this issue is over, but the differences between the two parties will continue.

The university professor said: In the Al-Sudani’s government program emphasis has been made on the formation of a committee on determining the assignment of the disputed areas and the return of Kurdish parties to the provinces of Kirkuk, Diyala and Salah al-Din. The Kurdistan Region of Iraq has started negotiations with the central government, including regarding disputes such as the budget and control over disputed areas; but such deep differences do not seem to be easily resolved, because so far none of the parties has been willing to show flexibility. In the past years, the region experienced disturbances that is why it is now seeking to improve political relations with Baghdad; because today Baghdad has an upper hand against Erbil.

Referring to the intensification of the differences after the assassination of the anti-terrorism officer affiliated with the Patriotic Union and the accusation of the leaders of the Patriotic Union due to political differences, he explained: The main difference between the two main parties of Kurdistan is rooted in their power-seeking desire and the extent of their political control. Since the formation of the autonomous government of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, the two main parties, the Patriotic Union and the Democratic Party, have been the main and historical rivals and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, having the most seats in the parliament, practically controls the internal situation, foreign relations, military situation and economic affairs of Kurdistan and the Patriotic Union has appeared very weak and does not play much role.

Recalling that the Patriotic Union Party, led by the late Jalal Talabani, has always had differences with the Democratic Party since 1975, he termed such wide-ranging differences very influential in security, security building and stability in the Kurdistan Region, and said: Oil is another important issue which is influential in such relationships. Kurdistan Region, with abundant oil and gas, can be one of the regions that export oil more easily to countries in the region, including Turkey. Therefore, the area of disputes in the oil issue is much bolder.

Ahmadzadeh reminded that since the death of Jalal Talabani, the founder of the Patriotic Union, the party did not reach an agreement on its chairmanship and finally voted for the joint chairmanship of Bafel as the eldest son of Jalal Talabani and Jangi, his nephew, adding: The Erbil court ruled to invalidate the dismissal of Sheikh Jangi, the co-chairman of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and nominated him as the co-chairman of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, but on the other hand, the circle of parties and political movements of Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission, which does not have jurisdiction, has approved the decision of the Patriotic Union to remove Sheikh Jangi and introduce Bafel as the head of the party. Such issues will add to the political crises of this region.

Referring to the US role in resolving the differences between the parties in Iraqi Kurdistan, he pointed out: Historically, the Kurds are one of the US close allies. The role of foreign countries, including the United States, has been to advance their own political-security and economic objectives in the region by taking advantage of the presence of ethnic groups and stimulating their independence-seeking tendencies, especially among the Kurds.

The university professor emphasized: The US seeks to advance its own regional objectives and those of the Zionist regime by helping to resolve the differences among the Kurds. The differences among the Kurds are not in the interests of the US. The US interference in the region is to create insecurity and get closer to the borders of Iran and other independent countries. In 2018, the United States, England, and Germany presented a plan to reform the structure of the Peshmerga forces so that those forces would be united and unified, but the continuous disagreements between the two democratic parties and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan could affect the efforts to unify the Peshmerga forces.

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