New Alliance among Kurds may Deepen Divisions

“We favor dialogue to resolve the disputes with Baghdad,” Shwan Dawudi, a PUK member of the Iraqi parliament, told Al-Monitor. “We [and Gorran] will, from now on, work as one bloc. [We] want to move things forward and play a positive role in settling the disputes.”

The PUK-Gorran agreement was facilitated by the KDP's humiliating treatment of Gorran. In October 2015, after KDP offices came under attack by protesters in Sulaimaniyah, Gorran's stronghold, the KDP prevented Gorran's Yousif Mohammed Sadiq, speaker of the Kurdistan parliament, from entering Erbil, the Kurdish capital, to carry out his duties. That same month, the KDP also dismissed five Gorran ministers in a Cabinet shuffle.

Furious about the changed circumstances, Gorran negotiated a deal with the PUK, a once-powerful partner in the Kurdistan government and KDP ally. The PUK's popularity had suffered considerably after a group of its leaders split from the party, supposedly because of disagreements over how the PUK was run, to form Gorran in 2009. Now the PUK hopes to regain its past influence by allying with Gorran.

Although fissures in Kurdish ranks are nothing new and the Kurdish parties have had disagreements in recent years over various issues — such as dealing with the Syrian crisis, Baghdad and local governance — handling Kurdish relations with Baghdad had until recently largely been the domain of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which the KDP dominates. The KRG and Baghdad have been engaged in a longstanding disagreement over the KRG's handling of energy resources and disputed territories scattered over Kirkuk and Ninevah provinces.

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