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Separatism and Sectarianism in Barzani Speech

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Separatism and Sectarianism in Barzani Speech

The following article was published by Reidar Visser, an historian of Iraq educated at the University of Oxford and currently based at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. It is reproduced here with the author’s permission. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

So, finally, Masud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), has delivered his much-anticipated speech on the occasion of the Nowroz festival that marks the beginning of a new year in the extended Persian cultural sphere stretching from Kurdistan to Afghanistan.

Much of the content of the speech was predictable simply because it involved reiteration of previously stated positions, if perhaps in somewhat more pitched variants than before. This included strictures on the concentration of power by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (including numerous erroneous descriptions such as saying Maliki “is” the defence minister etc.) as well as not-so-veiled threats about Kurdish secession if the problems persist (“we will turn to our people”).

As usual, there are numerous problems in the way the Kurdish leadership appeal to the Iraqi constitution whenever they are in conflict with Maliki, including the contradictive statement “the Iraqi constitution is constantly violated and the Erbil agreement, which was the basis upon which the current government was formed, has been completely ignored.” With its creation of extra-constitutional institutions and its attempts to change the Iraqi state structure by fiat when in fact referendums are constitutionally required, the Arbil agreement is itself a veritable violation of the Iraqi constitution!

Whether Barzani will make any progress with these threats remains unclear. As regards an actual move to unseat the government by withdrawing confidence in Maliki, the numbers are more or less as they were in the summer of 2010, when Barzani similarly talked tough but ended up supporting Maliki for PM anyway. The Kurds and Iraqiyya alone do not add up to reach the critical mark of 163 deputies needed to withdraw confidence in the government.

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