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article imageKurds extend borders of Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq

By Ken Hanly     Jun 28, 2014 in World
Erbil - While many in Iraq see the ISIS advance as an unmitigated disaster, the Kurds have used the situation to their advantage by occupying new territory such as the city of Kirkuk claiming that they are simply protecting the city from the ISIS advance.
The area surrounding Kirkuk is rich with oil. It has always been under dispute with a referendum that was to be held to determine the city's future never taking place. Saddam Hussein had followed a policy of settling Arabs in the city and there is also a substantial minority of Turkmen, who are wary of Kurd intentions.
At a recent joint news conference in Erbil with the UK foreign secretary William Hague, Massoud Barzani president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said: "We waited for 10 years for Baghdad to solve Article 140," he said, referring to the constitutional item which was meant to address the Kurds' decades-old ambition to incorporate the territory in their autonomous region in the north over the objections of successive governments in Baghdad."Now its accomplished because the Iraqi army pulled out and our Peshmerga forces had to step in. So now the problem is solved. There will be more no more conversation about it." Al Jazeera reporter Hoda Abdel-Hamad claimed that the Kurds see themselves in a strong position as they were able to occupy Kirkuk with their own Peshmerga forces after the government forces simply pulled out.
Both Hague and US secretary of state John Kerry had hoped for a unified Iraq. Present prime minister of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki whose party won the most seats in recent elections is under intense pressure to form a more inclusive government and to allow someone less divisive take on the role of prime minister. The prime minister in the post-Hussein era has always been a Shia with the mostly ceremonial post of president being a Kurd, while the house speaker is a Sunni.
The Ayatollah al-Sistani the leading Shia religious leader distanced himself from al-Maliki and urged the parliamentarians to meet and choose a prime minister prior to a planned sitting of parliament that will attempt to form a new government. Al-Sistani's spokesperson said: "What is required of the political blocs is to agree on the three [posts] within the remaining days to this date,"
While attempts to form a more inclusive central government are taking place, the Kurds are establishing facts on the ground that is creating what the Kurds call a new Iraq. While visiting Barzani US Secretary of State John Kerry had urged the Kurdish leaders to stand with the central government. US officials want to persuade the Kurds to stay with the central government in Baghdad to keep Iraq together. A senior state department official said:“If they decide to withdraw from the Baghdad political process, it will accelerate a lot of the negative trends,”
Barzani gave no indication that he intends to allow the situation in Kurdistan to return to the earlier arrangement. Barzani said: "We are facing a new reality and a new Iraq,” He made this statement at the beginning of his meeting with Kerry. While blaming al-Maliki's wrong policies for the present situation he said he found it "very difficult" to imagine Iraq staying together. Other Kurdish leaders too talk of the new reality and the position of strength that Kurdistan now occupies. Kurdish officials say privately that they are just waiting for an opportunity to seek independence. In a recent CNN interview Barzani also suggested that it might be time to hold a referendum on independence in Kurdish held areas.
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