Iraq: Tensions Mount between Baghdad and KRG
Leaders in Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government continued to trade jabs last week over the presence of Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi Tigris Operations Force in disputed territories. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said “the visit of the President of Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani…. to inspect the battlefronts in Kirkuk province is a ‘declaration of war’ on all Iraqis.” Denise Natali, of the National Defense University, noted that the decision to allow local militias to maintain security in the disputed territories “may only exacerbate the situation while failing to address the key issues.” These groups “will likely become proxies for Baghdad and Erbil and their regional supporters, allowing the underlying tensions to continue,” she added.
Meanwhile, Turkey and the KRG are concluding negotiations to open northern Iraq’s oil and gas sector to massive Turkish investment. The move is highly opposed by the U.S. and Iraqi governments over worries that the deal could hasten the breakup of the country. “We don’t support oil exports from any part of Iraq without the appropriate approval of the Iraqi government,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. However, a Turkish official responded saying, “We support the territorial integrity of Iraq and [its] constitution…. That is how we approach all of these issues, including any possible deals with the North.”
The U.S. National Intelligence Council published its “Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds” report predicting that, “Chronic instability will be a feature of the region because of the growing weakness of the state and the rise of sectarianism, Islam, and tribalism.” The report went further saying, “In the event of a more fragmented Iraq or Syria, a Kurdistan would not be inconceivable.”