As a result, Erbil and Baghdad were able to defuse this security crisis; this was a positive step and ensured that the country did not slip down a further dangerous and slippery slope toward violence and conflict. But interestingly the terms of the agreement are more like the truce between the armies of two neighbouring nations, rather than the two different military organizations working for the same country.
It may even be fair to say that the two military forces act that way. In fact, some of their recent behaviour suggests that the Iraqi military and the Iraqi Kurdish military have been in a kind of arms race, with these kinds of tensions escalating for some time now.
The Iraqi Kurdish actually have – or perhaps, had – a lot to do with the Iraqi national army. After the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Iraqi army, once loyal only to former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, was dissolved. When it was seen as necessary to re-establish the Iraqi army, this was done by both Arab and Iraqi Kurdish officers. Notable among these was Babaker Shawkat Zebari, who remains the current Chief of Staff of the Iraqi army – although some critics have dismissed Zebari’s role as that of a figurehead, rather than any genuine Iraqi Kurdish input in the national armed forces.
The most recent round of wrangling between Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan began in 2007. Baghdad insisted that the number of Peshmerga forces be reduced to 30,000. However the Iraqi Kurdish insisted it needed to be raised to 75,000 because of the mountainous and tricky terrain on the Iraqi Kurdish, international borders.
According to the media in Iraqi Kurdistan, the Peshmerga troops on the payroll currently number around 100,000. There are also 90,000 retired soldiers who also receive pensions. It had been agreed that some of the Peshmerga should be annexed to the Iraqi army in order to reduce that figure to 75,000. However this is still far from the desired figure of around 30,000 troops. Baghdad has also refused to allocate any further funding for the Peshmerga and has also insisted on the closure of two military academies in Iraqi Kurdistan.
As for actual hardware, the Iraqi Kurdish have bought over 20 Apache helicopters from the US while Baghdad has plans to purchase F16 fighter planes from the US, due to be delivered there in 2014.
Meanwhile Baghdad continues to say that any kind of “army” in Iraqi Kurdistan, that is specifically at the service of Iraqi Kurdistan, would be “unconstitutional”.
(Picture: Peshmerga soldier, 2005)