- - Tuesday, November 6, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In the past, skeptics used to criticize former President George W. Bush for thinking that it was possible to build a better Iraq. However, after years of struggle, it appears that Mr. Bush’s dream has the potential to become a reality. Now, Iraq has a new moderate prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, who is a friend of the Sunnis, Shias and Kurdistan as well as the United States. And for the first time ever, several ministerial posts will also be held by Kurds. About one year after Kurdistan’s Independence Referendum, what’s next for Kurdistan?

According to an Iraqi source, the Kurdistan region has joined the Iraqi government in the hopes that they will be able to get their share of the budget and to obtain all of their rights as envisioned in the Iraqi Constitution. The Kurdistan region is seeking a) an equal share of the government; b) an equitable balance and c) consensus between both sides before any decision is made.

If Kurdistan does not obtain these goals, then they will follow through with implementing the referendum. But at the same time, there is reason for cautious optimism regarding the prospects for Kurdistan obtaining its rights this time around.

In 2015, the new Iraqi prime minister said that it is better to divide Iraq into three parts. He thinks that the unity of Iraq does not work. He is a close friend of the Barzani family.

Kurdistan played a major role in encouraging the regime change that occurred not too long ago in Baghdad. Indeed, the road to change in Baghdad began with the Kurdistan Independence Referendum and Kurdistan Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani’s diplomacy.

Thanks to Mr. Barzani’s diplomacy, the embargoes ended and all of the airports that were previously closed opened up. Furthermore, thanks to his efforts, the financial crisis decreased and the economy improved.

While his political opponents still argue that what he did was damage control following a failed referendum bid, there are reports from inside Iraq that indicate that both Iraq under Haider Abadi and Iran sought to conquer the entire Kurdistan region and not just Kirkuk. The Iraqi Constitution recognizes the existence of the Kurdistan region and the Kurdistan Regional Government but the Iraqis and Iranians sought to do away with this. They wanted the Kurdistan region to be subservient to the rest of Iraq. Mr. Barzani succeeded to bring that plot to a halt when his Peshmerga forces halted their advance in Perde and Sechela, which is near Sinjar. And it was not the KDP that handed over Kirkuk to Mr. Abadi and Iran.

After witnessing how Mr. Barzani fought for the rights of his people, other groups in Iraq began to revolt against Mr. Abadi’s corruption and Iran’s interference within the country. Iraqis have witnessed how many freedoms the Kurds enjoy in the autonomous northern part of the country. They see how Kurdistan’s Prime Minister Nichervan Barzani is trying to unite his people so that they can get their needs met in Baghdad and they want the same things for themselves. As one of the demonstrators proclaimed, “The Kurds inspire me.” Thus, a desire for the rest of Iraq to enjoy what the Kurds do stood behind the mass anti-corruption protests in Iraq which led to true change finally coming to Baghdad.

The Iraqi people understood that the contrast between the Kurdistan region and the rest of Iraq is stark. Erbil is the fifth best place for services in the whole Middle East region. In the Kurdistan region, there are beautiful parks and shopping malls while locals reported that Baghdad is “all trash and dirty.” Locals complain that they don’t get any services there. Girls get killed all the time in Iraq but not in Kurdistan. Former Miss Baghdad Tara Fares found safe refuge in Kurdistan and was only murdered upon returning to Baghdad for a visit.

But women are not the only victims of Iraqi society. According to dissident Ammar Al Hamadani, lawyer Jabbar Karem Al Bahadi was murdered by Iran’s Badr Organization for defending Iraqis who were detained while protesting for the right to have electricity and other basic services: “The same organization that murdered Al Bahadi tried to kill me for defending the Jews, demanding the return of their properties and defending the demonstrator’s freedom of expression and opinion.”

The Iraqi people were tired of being oppressed and they voiced their indignation for their present reality when they voted. As Mr. Barzani once proclaimed, “The only way to a better future and prosperity is through unity. We have the right to defend our case, we are ready for any scenario and we shall prevail just as we prevailed before. We prefer to solve our issues in a peaceful manner through dialogue.” With the recent political changes in Iraq, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic that Mr. Bush’s vision of a truly better Iraq under a moderate leader can finally come into fruition.

• Rachel Avraham is the president of the Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi Center for Human Rights in Middle East and is a political analyst at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights.


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