Is it Treason to go Back to Iraq or is it the Only Choice?
12/14/2016 5:14:00 PM
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Arez Osman Barzinji
In 2014, the KRG started its own oil exportation through the renewed pipeline that accesses Ceyhan port. Due to this action, the central government started a campaign against it and announced the independent exportation of oil by the KRG as unconstitutional and fundamentally illegal. This dispute lasted for months until prime minister of the Iraqi government at the time, Nouri al-Maliki, took the move to stop sending Kurdistan’s share of the budget to the Kurdistan Region completely.
This political maneuverer, coupled with the ISIS crisis, has created a catastrophic economic and financial problem within the KRG in which its people continue to suffer. The KRG continued to claim that if the central government had a problem they should instead put pressure on the KRG instead of the people – cutting the budget they argued, damaged the people more than the regional government. Additionally as the KRG began exporting oil, the price of crude went down dramatically, posing a further barrier to the population and the KRG as a whole.
Due to a widening financial black hole along with the relative cheapness of oil due to falling prices, the KRG developed an austerity project where they would cut off half or more from government employees’ salaries – the aftermath creating further economic distress and dire financial situation that didn’t just impact on the politics and economy in the region, but also damaged the very fabric of society in the region. Frequent demonstrations and uprisings inside the KRG have sprung up in recent weeks, and they look like continuing into the near future. Public employees and teachers have started boycotts and closed the door shut on schools. The situation that has been created, is having a fundamental impact on the education system within the KRG, stopping it. It is the deadliest sign of a crisis, when education is halted, because education is the main pillar of a community’s progression. After some negotiating between the two conflicting groups, the Iraqi government presented an offer to the KRG – if the KRG sends 550000 barrels of oil a day to SOMO – which is the main federal company for selling oil – then the Iraqi government will send the KRG their 17% share of the budget. The KRG however refused this offer and has sought to continue to sell through KOMO, the KRG’s version of Baghdad’s SOMO, a company that the federal government classes as illegal.
Besides the lack of a budget and the cheap price of oil, the ISIS crisis has further pushed the situation towards the edge of collapse in the Kurdistan Region. War itself is expensive, while besides that, approximately 1.5 million refugees and internally displaced persons have taken shelter within the KRG borders, which has inflated the crisis even more.
The combination of these incidents and the outcome of them on the economic and social situation in the Kurdistan Region has led to people in Kirkuk and Sulaimani to cry out the motto; “Abadi! Abadi!” – in essence a calling for these two cities to go back under the control of the central government in Baghdad, as two separate governorates from the KRG, because people believe that the federal government can provide for their basic needs better.
This is not a sudden reaction of the people, it came into existence due to three years of people losing their basic needs – and they have waited a long time for the KRG to solve their problems. The KRG however has been careless and slow in solving problems.
The national dream of the people of the Kurdistan Region is to create an independent state, but the actions of the KRG has pushed them towards disintegration and wanting to split from this national dream because, without money, no nation can stand for long. Going back to Iraq is simply a move to regain financial stability because people see that Iraq pays its public employees a regular monthly wage and they are aware that the economic situation is better than the KRG.
However, if the people of Kirkuk and Sulaimani did decide to attempt this new alternative, the legality of separating from the KRG would be the first issue to consider. According to the Iraqi constitution, every governorate can declare itself as a region or with others. Also, every governorate is free to link-back to Iraq or to attach to a region, so in terms of legality, it is certainly doable. Secondly, the Iraqi government is capable of paying salaries, providing expenses, and can even give 10 million dinars as a loan to employees to reconstruct their life due to the ISIS crisis.
While going back to Iraq may lose all the achievements of southern Kurdistan that have been achieved with blood and tears, those blood and tears are actually being wasting by the Kurdish “leaders” who have led the people to this shameful time in which they demand to be ruled, not to rule. The only barrier to this idea is acceptance of it politically due to the strong opposition of the PDK to the concept, which is now basically the ruling party, and factions within other parties that see it as either an unnationalistic move or as a loss to themselves. While financially it is good for the people to go back to Iraq and accept those salaries, politically it is not a good strategy to give back all the powers that the Kurdish people have achieved through harsh conflicts for years with successive Iraqi governments. However deprivation of money can also create deprivation of life, and having political power and a separate political entity means nothing if the people have a limited life.