Kurds win on Loose Federalism in IGC’s Fundamental Law
Kurdish Interim Governing Council member Dara Nour Eddine announced that the IGC had agreed to put language in the Fundamental Law it is now crafting that permits the status quo to continue in the Kurdish regions.
Earlier, the IGC had proposed simply declaring that the status quo would continue. But a mere declaration was rejected by Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani, who insisted with Paul Bremer in three recent meetings that the principle of Kurdish semi-autonomy be explicitly mentioned in the Fundamental Law that the IGC is now crafting to govern Iraqi elections and the functioning of a transitional government until a new constitution is fashioned in 2005. (az-Zaman 01/09/04)
These Kurdish areas have for some time had a quasi-independent government, first under the US no-fly zone, and then since the April 9 fall of the Baath party, and the two main Kurdish parties have recently announced that they will attempt to form a national unity government over the whole. The Kurds dominate 3 of Iraq’s old 18 provinces (Sulaimaniyah, Dohouk, Irbil), and want to erase the provincial lines between them and just have a Kurdistan province. That is essentially the status quo that Nour Eddine (Nur al-Din) is saying the IGC has recognized. He also said that a final determination about the status of the Kurdish regions will be postponed until a new constitution is written. Of course, anything now put in the Fundamental Law has a good chance of continuing in the constitution, which is one reason that the Kurds have insisted on inserting their demands now.
The Kurds want more than just the three provinces. Ideally they’d like to add in to Kurdistan parts of three other provinces where Kurds have substantial presence [Mosul, Ninevah and Diyala], as well as annexing the oil-rich city of Kirkuk from al-Tamim province. The latter plan has caused communal riots, deaths, and dozens of injuries in the past two weeks in Kirkuk, a city of about a million where Kurds are presently about third of the population. The Turkmen and Arabs, who make up the other 2/3s of the city object to it becoming part of Kurdistan. The final disposition of Kirkuk and also the Kurdish claims on parts of other provinces will have to be dealt with in the negotiations later this year for a new constitution. For a sense of how intransigent the Kurds are with regard to their demands that Iraq be gerrymandered on ethnic lines, see “Iraq’s Kurds Uneasy over Future despite Autonomy Guarantees“.
I have a feeling of deep unease about all this. The new, transitional Iraqi government will not be popularly elected, and will inevitably itself be deeply divided on these issues. How it can come to a compromise with the Kurds about the future is unclear, and any final decision made about Kirkuk could provoke major ethnic fighting. The Americans seem likely to run out without resolving the issue, leaving it to be resolved by a weak state they install.