Kurdish-Shiite meeting in Erbil doesn’t bridge differences over Iraq’s future

Iraq Kurdish Region President Masoud Barzani (R) talks to Shiite political groups coalition National Alliance President Ammar Hakim (C) during a news conference at Zartac Mountain near Nineveh, Iraq, October 27, 2016. (c) Reuters/Azad Lashkari

A high profile delegation from the Shiite National Alliance in Iraq, composed of different parties’ members and led by senior Shiite cleric, Ammar al-Hakim visited the Kurdistan Region to discuss the political situation and region’s ties with Baghdad this week.

The delegation met Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and the de facto president of the region Masoud Barzani. The parties’ discussed relations with the alliance and and the independence of the Kurdistan region. Hakim also met a number of Kurdish party officials.

Fazil Mirani, secretary of Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), said in a press conference, that the matter of Kurdish independence was also discussed in a more explicit way compared to previous meetings.

“Unlike before, we did not shamefully talk about independence as we all have the right to talk about our right to self-determination,” Mirani said.

A member of the Shiite delegate responded by saying that timing was not ripe for Kurds to talk about independence.

“It is true that the question of independence was discussed, but it is too early for Kurds to go ahead for it,” Hemid Mualla told Rudaw.

The Shiite National Alliance, which launched its project, called the National Settlement, aimed at the “unity and strengthening of Iraq” told the Kurdish parties they want to create a “citizen state” according to Barzani’s Chief of Staff Fuad Hussein.

However the response by Barzani was, “it is very hard for the Kurds to once again repeat a failed experience with Iraq. We became part of Iraq upon our desire and we will leave it the same way. There are other methods as to become two good neighbors with each other.”

A leader within the Shiite Alliance, Ali Allaq, also said at the press conference that new perceptions are needed and that the alliance had listened to feedback with an “open heart”.

Relations between the KDP dominated Kurdistan Regional Government and Shiite parties soured in 2013 when Shiite leader Nouri al-Maliki took office in Baghdad for the second time and cut the budget and salaries for the KRG’s civil servants. Maliki accused the KRG of selling oil without Baghdad’s permission.

Commentators have said both Kurdish and Shiite parties are divided over plans regarding the future of Iraq post-IS.

(Reporting and writing by Nawroz Sinjari)