Sunday, February 17, 2008

Meanwhile, away from Baghdad

(Cross-posted from Lotus - Surviving a Dark Time with slight edits.)

On the Iraqi front that always seems to get overlooked, we learn from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) that

[t]ensions are building between Kurdish leaders and Arab prime minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government in Bagahdad, threatening to divide two of Iraq’s strongest political allies.

Kurdish leaders accuse Maliki’s government of not acting on issues most important to the Kurds, such as resolving a dispute over ownership of Kirkuk province and the funding of Kurdish forces known as the Peshmerga.

At the same time, the Iraqi Kurdish government has forged ahead with signing private oil contracts without the approval of the central government, irking Baghdad and reigniting debates about how much power Iraq’s regional governments should hold.
The Kurdish Alliance is the second-largest bloc in parliament, holding nearly 20% of the seats. It's part of Maliki's governing coalition and if that alliance does fracture, it could turn the now-merely paralyzed government into one whose existence would extend little beyond the paper describing it.

Adding to those woes is that fact that the Kurds are becoming frustrated with their own leaders' inability to provide basic services. In response, a movement is trying to gather a million signatures on a petition calling for the local parliament to be dissolved and new elections held - but it's being hindered by active interference from security forces, which claim the petitioners need government approval to gather signatures.
In Chamchamal, police are said to have taken the coordinators of the petition to security headquarters in the town, confiscated their literature and told them they couldn’t collect signatures until they obtained permission from officials. ...

“[People] cannot do whatever they want,” said Ahmad Nadir, head of the Assaish, or security forces, in Chamchamal, told IWPR. “They don’t have a permit to collect signatures. We have told them to bring [one] from the governor of Sulaimaniyah and we will then let them work.”
Or, expressed more simply, you can only gather signatures on a petition calling for a new government at the times and places and in the way the challenged government chooses to allow. But that's necessary because, y'see,
[s]ome politicians argue that now is a difficult time to hold an election, citing tension between the Kurdish leadership and the central government in Baghdad over the future status of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, as well as recent conflict between Turkish troops and the Kurdistan Workers' Party, PKK, in northern Iraq.
Of course, it always seems to be a "difficult time" for elections when a government is under internal challenge, doesn't it? Hope it doesn't give you-know-who any ideas. Then again, I expect they've already had them.