By Roman Zagros.
Recently tensions between Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan have run high, complete with a military stand-off. The crisis seems to have been defused now. But if it was all just politics, then who won? And who lost – and why?
The recent military standoff between forces from the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan and the central government in Baghdad over disputed territory has further exposed the tensions between the region’s president, Massoud Barzani, and the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.
There is, however, more to this dispute than meets the eye, as the two leaders vie for power – but not necessarily power over one another, rather, each in his respective domain.
A few years ago it would have been inconceivable to imagine Iraqi Kurds and Shiites facing each other on the battlefield. But a rare skirmish between an Iraqi police unit and a force of Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga – the force belonging to Iraqi Kurdistan that protects the northern state – in mid-November prompted the two leaders to dispatch thousands of troops in what would appear to be preparations for a military showdown, amid emotionally charged rhetoric from both sides.
However even from the beginning, this looked very unlikely. And last week, the Speaker in the Iraqi Parliament, Osama al-Nujaifi, visited Barzani in Iraqi Kurdistan and then managed to bring military chiefs from both sides together at a meeting in Baghdad; this week the two sides agreed to pull their forces out of the disputed territory and to deal with other outstanding issues – such as a new Iraqi military command centre worse location has upset the Iraqi Kurdish authorities – that may well have exacerbated the situation.