By John Lee.
Local authorities in Basra province have reportedly threatened to break away from the central government and create an autonomous region of their own.
The idea was rekindled by MP Wail Abd al-Latif, who told Rudaw:
“Efforts toward making Basra an autonomous region is a project and not a trump card against the central government …
“Starting this month, the committee assigned with making Basra an autonomous region will take new legal steps through forming a council made up of representatives from all the towns and sub-districts of Basra.”
He noted that this project has been in the making for a number of years and conforms fully to the Iraqi constitution.
Just days before drafting the final version of the Iraqi constitution in 2005, the issue of a southern Shiite autonomous region caused heated divisive debate among Iraqi politicians.
An autonomous Shiite region that includes several southern provinces is considered the brainchild of Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the former leader of the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq (ISCI).
He proposed a Shiite autonomous region modeled after the Kurdistan Region, but divisions between Shiites and strong Sunni opposition defeated the project.
In 2010, 22 members from 35 Basra Provincial Councils signed a petition demanding Baghdad hold a referendum in the province in accordance with the Iraqi constitution, so that residents can choose if they want to remain under Baghdad or form their own autonomous government. But the demand fell on deaf ears at the prime minister’s office.
Abd al-Latif argued:
“If Basra became an autonomous region, it would be different from the Kurdistan Region, because the Kurdistan Region was a reality before the formation of the new Iraq and its achievements were incorporated into the Iraqi constitution …
“The region of Basra would be compatible with the current Iraqi laws and constitution.”
Over the past several months the Sunni provinces of Anbar, Salahdeen and Diyala unilaterally declared autonomy from Baghdad.