The Kurdish Globe
Interviewed by Rawaz Koyee
Member of the Federal Parliament from the Kurdistan Alliance and prominent political adviser Dr. Mahmud Othman, in an interview with The Kurdish Globe, discussed the Iraqi political process.
Othman says Iraqi policymakers have failed to establish a prosperous and institutionalized country following the fall of the former regime in 2003. He states the Constitution is not implemented the way it should be, and the political blocs do not adhere to it.
Globe: The political conflict in Iraq does not seem to end. Where is Iraq heading?
Othman: The Iraqi policymakers have failed to reestablish a prosperous and institutionalized country following the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003. Iraq still cannot be described as a democratic country due to the lack of the principles that a democratic and prosperous country requires.
Globe: People voted for the Constitution to build a new political process for the future of Iraq. Where is the role of Constitution in this situation?
Othman: There is a constitution which is not implemented the way it should be, the Iraqi lawmakers and politicians do not adhere to the articles approved in the Iraqi Constitution. We occasionally hear (Iraqi Prime Minister) Nouri Al-Maliki emphasizing the political parties' commitment to the Iraqi charter, but it was the same Al-Maliki who used to criticize the Constitution and even calling it a bomb for Iraqi stability. The truth is that each political bloc seeks its own interests, so for the Kurds it's our legitimate right to go for our interests as well.
Globe: The Sunni parties say Maliki has taken control over every strategic position. Is that true? Do the Kurds feel isolated as well?
Othman: The Shiite bloc craves absolute power in the country' they intend to establish governance in which they have access to all its aspects. The Sunni blocs are isolated from strategic decision-making positions. As for the Kurds, we are a part of the Iraqi power-sharing government to a certain extent, but still are not given the share of a real partner. Both the Iraqi army chief and deputy prime minister are Kurds, but their jurisdictions are limited.
Globe: What is the solution, then?
Othman: The power-sharing deal has not been successful for the last seven years' the ongoing disputes among the political parties testify to the failure of this so-called power-sharing. Therefore, the Iraqi leaders should seek other alternatives. I believe the current statue of Iraq requires a government that is formed by the majority, and then the other parties may play the role of an active opposition. However, both ruling and opposition sides must commit to democratic principles, meaning the ruling party will not go after the opposition leaders for their political perspectives. In return, the opposition leaders shall not be involved in terrorist actions or collaborate with insurgent groups as revenge for their being out of power.
Globe: The Sunni Arabs are bidding to establish their own regions, like the Kurdistan Region. How legitimate is this step? What would the Shiites do about that?
Othman: The Constitution allows regions to emerge' therefore it is 100 percent legitimate. But what is obvious is that Maliki does not support establishing these regions as he does not believe in the principle of federalism. His fundamental plan is to establish a strong centralized power in which he has a strong grip over all its facets.
Globe: What are your options if Maliki continues to neglect Kurdish demands?
Othman: Kurds have taken part in the Iraqi Shiite-led government since 2005. We had so many strategic cards that we could play to demonstrate our seriousness about holding on to our righteous demands -- withdrawing from the government, for instance -- but we used none of these cards. We kept talking instead, and when you just talk, without translating it into actions, then the other side will no longer take you seriously.
Globe: At the time of forming this government, the Kurds supported Al-Maliki with the condition that he signs 19 demands. Has he signed these demands?
Othman: I'm not sure if he has' I only heard from Dr. Rozh Nuri, the head of Kurdish negotiation delegation, that Al-Maliki has signed the Kurdish precondition paper for lending support to him that includes 19 demands. However, even if he has not signed them, Al-Maliki is not the only person or side that should be blamed' we have to blame ourselves as well for not putting enough pressure on Al-Maliki's government to respond to our demands. If the Kurds expect the head of the Council of Ministers to do what they want, it will not happen. Therefore, at this point, the Kurdish representatives in Baghdad must put pressure on Al-Maliki's government and give him a strong message that this is not acceptable.
Globe: The Kurdish leaders say the Kurds enjoy a close relationship with the US Administration. To what extent has the Kurdish administration enjoyed US support since the fall of the former regime?
Othman: The Kurds are not on the American administration's agenda. America deals with the Iraqi government rather than the Kurdistan Regional Government. It is true that we have enjoyed a long relationship with the US administration, and I believe we ought to continue working on improving these ties further. However, when it comes to depending on the US, I think the Kurds should not aim high. If the Kurdish administration relies on the US to support its question, that would be a huge mistake.
Globe: Article 140 of the Constitution, which is described as road map to resolve the issue of the disputed areas, is a dilemma. It was supposed to be implemented in 2007, but five years have passed, and the disputed land issue remains unresolved. Why?
Othman: As I said before, the Iraqi leaders do not believe in the Constitution and certainly don't abide by it. Article 140 is a dilemma indeed, and so far I don't see any serious effort whatsoever towards its implementation. On the contrary, the budget that is allocated for implementing the Article by compensating the settlers and displaced families is reduced year by year, and this is the proof that there is no serious desire to resolve the issue of the disputed territories.