Is a war between Iraqi government troops and Kurdish militias imminent?

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By Akab al-Taher

Azzaman, November 19, 2012

The row between the regional government in Iraqi Kurdistan and the central government in Baghdad is worsening. Its solution is in need of courageous and wise steps if a sustainable settlement for the divisive issues is sought.

Relations between the two sides must be re-organized and revised. However, Prime Minister Noori al-Maliki must bear in mind that it is his duty and part of his responsibilities to apply the constitution and show boldness in the use of his constitutional prerogatives.

And the prime minister must remember that the security file is his prerogative and not the prerogative of any of the country’s 18 provinces or the regional government in Kurdistan.

The regional Kurdish government under Massoud Barzani has shown that it deals with the central government in Baghdad as if it were a government of a foreign state with the right to enjoy all the privileges and blessings it can offer and at the same time give nothing in return.

Otherwise, how can one understand the persistence of the Kurdish regional government to deploy its own peshmerga (armed militias)  in certain areas in defiance of the central government? What type of message does this posturing send?

Maliki’s government is in a difficult situation. While it should seek security and tranquility across the country, it has to deal with a regional government in the Kurdish region, which does not recognize central authority and gives lip service to the institution that grants Baghdad the right to preserve security across the national soil.

It is important for Maliki not to retreat, although a decision in this direction is entirely up to him.

If Maliki gives in to Barzani and his regional government, he will set a dangerous precedent that will help anyone in the country and any province to blatantly violate the constitution and encroach on the integrity of the country’s national territory.

The Kurds have illegally controlled many swathes of territory under the pretext of disputed areas. Although disputed, these areas are under the control of one party only, that is Kurdish militias.

Probably the only solution lies in a neutral mediation that treats not only these areas but the whole country as an integral part, where the national army has the right to be present.

As the situation stands, it is difficult to see a solution in the horizon when Barzani mobilizes his militias against the national army with orders not to let Iraqi troops tread on certain areas.