A deal in Iraq

A quick post while in the middle of vacation.

Lost in the coverage over Bhutto's assassination in Pakistan is news of an apparent political agreement in Iraq between the two Kurdish political parties (KDP and PUK, who stick together on the national scene) and Tariq al Hashemi, leader of the official Sunni Arab representation in Baghdad's government. The Kurds and Sunnis agreed on some bland stuff, but does it mean something more?

I think this is significant. The Kurds support Maliki's government (Shia Arab) because Maliki's government is weak. The Kurds want a weak government in Baghdad so that they can run their own show up in Kurdistan (which, as Chirol shows, ain't such a bad place, relatively).

My guess is that the Kurds are hedging their bets by making some connections with the Sunnis. This would be because the intra-Shia violence in Southern Iraq might mean Shia power is waning as they fracture, and the strengthening of the American-backed Sunni militias in central and western Iraq mean the Sunnis are on the rise. Rising Sunni power and falling of Shia power isn't the most likely scenario, but it seems prudent for the Kurds to hedge against it.

A Sunni-Kurdish coalition government in Baghdad would never be strong enough to threaten Kurdish independent actions, as Shia Arabs are the majority of Iraqis. Plus Hashemi does not have much real power - he was basically appointed to be representative of Sunni Arabs in Baghdad after Sunnis boycotted the elections. Hence he doesn't have power to give any concessions to Shia or Kurds. Instead that legitimacy lies with the sheikhs, many of whom are part of the Awakening movement. However the Kurdish political parties can't really make a deal with the Awakening movement, so perhaps Hashemi is the next best thing.

Of course looking at political events in Iraq are like reading goat entrails - you're usually wrong, and even when you're right, it's still nasty.


Arjun said...

that last sentence is great adrian. seriously.

it seems likely that the various 'awakening militias' will remain separate and, hmmm, what do i mean? not united behind a leader, or even coherent idea that allows for decision making from a position of greater strength / greater geographic influence.

however, would it not make sense for the kurds to approach 'awakening' or 'awakened' militias in areas of geographic significance (to them)? What are the odds that this Has Not occurred? Is it a good thing? a bad thing. please make a value judgment.

NYkrinDC said...


It may just be a political play on the part of the Kurds. Given what's going on in Northern Iraq, and Turkey's incursions into the region to hunt and kill the PKK, the Kurds may be using this "agreement" as a means of stirring the pot. That is, telling the Shiites, unless you guys do something to cease these Turkish incursions, we'll abandon your weakening coalition and ally with the Sunni. In short, a shot across the bow with regard to Turkey. They've been complaining loudly this whole week that neither the US, nor the Iraqi government has sought to defend Iraqi sovereignty.

A.E. said...

I lean towards the New Yorker in DC's interpretation on this one. The Kurds and Shiites aren't going to become decoupled over this.

Adrian said...

Arjun, if the Awakening militias take some official position in the Iraqi government, they will probably make deals with the Kurds, but at the moment local Sunni militias can't really influence events in Kurdistan, where Sunni Arabs are getting cleansed out of Kirkuk. So I don't foresee much interaction between those two parties until the Awakening groups are formalized in the government.

NYKRINDC and AE - I don't think that the Kurds and Shiites will split over a bland joint statement between Kurds and Hashemi, but I think it might be an indicator of some behind-the-scenes work by the Kurdish political parties to make sure they aren't caught without a backup plan in the event of Maliki's coalition failing in a Shia civil war. It's not that they think they'll have to use them, just that they think its possible enough that they should hedge.

Also, NYKRINDC, think about how this statement sounds:
"Kurds have] been complaining loudly this whole week that neither the US, nor the Iraqi government has sought to defend Iraqi sovereignty."

Are the Kurds really reduced to asking a foreign occupying military to defend the sovereignty of a country they don't want to be a part of? Seems to me the PUK and KDP wouldn't particularly mind the destruction of the PKK.