Article 140: The Elephant at the Negotiating Table

After the extremist group known as the Islamic State began to take control of territory in the north of Iraq, the Iraqi Kurdish military took the initiative and took control of nearby Kirkuk, something they had long wanted via Article 140. In fact, Iraqi Kurdish President Massoud Barzani went so far as to say that Article 140 had now been implemented and that there was no point discussing it anymore.

For obvious reasons Baghdad doesn’t quite see it that way. The new Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi, has already said that part of his agenda for the year will involve working on Article 140. However he did not say how this might be done.

“Up until recently the topics of oil and the budget were the most important topics in meetings whenever officials from Baghdad and Erbil met,” Kaka-Rash Siddiq, who heads the  Kirkuk office of High Committee on Implementing Article 140, told NIQASH. “It’s true that these are very important issues and that they affect the lives of all Iraqis. But the problem of the disputed territories is equally important,” he argued. “If no road map is formulated on these issues and if the Constitutional articles are not implemented, then things are just going to get more complicated in the future.”

Siddiq says that being based in Kirkuk, he – like all the other people that live there – is waiting to see what happens next. He also stressed that he was giving his opinion as a citizen, not as a politician.

Iraqi Kurdish local Yassin Hassan was a member of the Iraqi Kurdish team that went to negotiate in Baghdad. He said Iraqi officials preferred to concentrate on oil and the budget, mainly because, he thought, if the Iraqi Kurdish region managed to successfully export more oil and become financially independent, this might lead to national independence too. “That’s why they were not so happy when Article 140 came up,” Hassan says. He also says that prominent Sunni Muslim politician, Osama al-Nujaifi, told the negotiators that if Article 140 was implemented, then he feared there would be bloodshed all over Iraq.

“And officials from Iraqi Kurdistan were most concerned about getting the money they were owed in the budget, back,” Hassan says. “They were not as concerned about getting land back.”

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