Baghdad, Erbil Continue Struggle for Authority

By Mustafa al-Kadhimi for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

What are the prospects of a permanent solution for governing relations between the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government in Baghdad? This is a question without an answer in Baghdad or Erbil.

With each successive crisis, the two sides exchange accusations and threats, which are followed by conciliation based on the principle of postponing the crisis instead of finding solutions to it.

The fact is that serious disputes have always erupted between the KRG and Baghdad during the adoption of yearly budgets. Each time, the dispute has revolved around the province’s share of the budget, customs duties, financing of the Peshmerga, petroleum contracts and other issues.

The 2014 budget has raised similar disagreements, which are not expected to be resolved for weeks to come. This time around, however, the exporting of Kurdistan region oil through Turkey sits at the top of the agenda of differences.

Without going into great detail about the respective viewpoints vis-a-vis the crisis, suffice it to say that the central problem of the tense relationship between Erbil and Baghdad is their diverging interpretations of the constitution. No lasting solution to their disagreements can therefore be expected before resolution on the matter of interpretation, in particular the article concerning the relationship between federal authorities and the provinces.

From Baghdad’s perspective, Iraqi Kurdistan has trampled on the powers of the federal government laid out in the constitution, especially those relating to the powers of federal security agencies, the army, petroleum policy, agreements and other matters. Meanwhile, the KRG claims that Baghdad is seeking to strip the province of its constitutional powers in regard to these same issues.

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