lundi 21 janvier 2008

Kurds feel the squeeze in Iraq

The New Anatolian / Ankara
21 January 2008

With the Iraqi Arabs, both Sunni and Shiites starting to unite against the growing demands of the Kurds the Kurdish leadership has started to feel the political and economic squeeze. When the Iraqi Kurds announced their own oil law and started dishing out contracts to Western companies they did not calculate that eventually the Arabs would put aside their differences and unite to halt the Kurdish advances in Iraq.

The fact that the Kurds had recruited the alliance of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki earlier last year gave the Kurds a feeling of false security which now seems to have evaporated.

Meanwhile anger over the Kurds insistence to run their own independent oil industry and their growing demands on Kirkuk have brought old foes together. A few months go no one would even dream that moderate Shiite leader Iyad Allawi would join forces with Muqtada Sadr's radical Shiite faction to demand an end to Kurdish demands in Iraq.

Sunni and Shiite Arab leaders now say Iraq's federal system should not encourage excessive decentralization that will threaten the unity of the country, that the Kurds have to give up their demands to run their own oil industry and last but not least that the Kirkuk issue should not simply become a matter of when the province will be given to the Kurds.

The more the Iraqi Kurdish leadership has shown defiance and opted for confrontation with Baghdad the more pressures they have started to feel in Erbil.

Vital funds from Baghdad which are the only means of survival for the Kurds is drying up. High ranking government sources in Erbil have admitted the local administration has not been able to pay the salaries of the peshmerga forces for the past four months.

There is growing signs of economic and social unrest among the ordinary Kurds.

Thus the Kurdish administration has dispatched local prime minister Nechirvan Barzani to Baghdad for emergency talks.

Nechirvan Barzani made a similar trip to Baghdad three weeks ago but returned empty handed despite meetings with Shiite spiritual leaders as well.

He could not convince the Arab leaders over his oil policies while the Kurds reluctantly had to bow to pressures to accept the delay of the Kirkuk referendum for six months. Some Arabs say the referendum will never take place.

The ongoing Turkish raids on PKK hideouts in northern Iraq coupled with the new confrontation with the Arabs in Baghdad is frustrating the Kurds.

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