Over six years in office, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has proven to be incapable of providing basic security and services to the people. By openly advocating a conflict between Kurds and Arabs, he is threatening the territorial integrity of Iraq and the success of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
Nouri al-Maliki is deliberately undermining the prospects of a prosperous Iraq by threatening oil and gas supermajors against operating in Kurdistan, withholding their revenues at ransom and barring them from auctions; his foreign policy is a disaster, providing blatant support for Bashar al-Assad’s regime and his bloodshed while weakening ties with Iraq’s largest trading partner – Turkey; in the armed forces he openly incites and promotes sectarianism and segregation in the mindset of a fragile people.
The recent unconstitutional creation of an overarching Tigris (Dijla) Operations Command Centre to oversee the internal security affairs of the Northern provinces is a stark reminder of the previous regime for our people; al-Maliki also accuses our leadership of harassing local Arabs and other ethnic minorities by piling our security and intelligence officers into the largely Kurdish areas outside of our region - inaccurately referred to as disputed territories. By way of a twisting media campaign al-Maliki and his associates are masking failures by shifting attention towards the largely peaceful Kurdistan Region.
By removing the few existing independent bodies and demonstrating little interest in delivering good-governance, Al-Maliki is keeping Iraq amongst most failed and corrupt states. His harassment and marginalisation of political partners and opponents, including Sunni-Arabs, has destroyed any hopes of national reconciliation, leaving the country in complete political stalemate.
The Kurdistan Region has proven to be a genuine partner in building a safe and prosperous Iraq. In fact, despite US involvement the Iraqi government has refused to provide our local security apparatus access to their criminal records database in the past – a move to help information-sharing and stem violence. In a rare interview with al-Arabiya recently, Masrour Barzani, Director of the Kurdistan Region Security Protection Agency and National Security Advisor, said that al-Maliki is making an 'unforgivable mistake' by inciting tensions amongst Kurds and Arabs, underlining the need for the premier to address demands for services, not mass thousands of troops against the safest part of Iraq.
The agency plays a key and covert role in creating an atmosphere that encourages foreign governments to distinguish official travel advice to the Kurdistan Region from other parts of Iraq; increasing direct flights to our international airports; allowing westerners and diplomats to roam our cities with limited security detail; the United Nations electing to ease its rigid security regulations across our three provinces; and above all it allows our children to attend school without parental concerns about their personal safety. It has completely eradicated Al-Qaeda offshoots from our region and has imprisoned its members – groups that have staged deadly attacks in Iraq this year.
It also cooperates with western governments in apprehending most wanted criminals, works with Interpol to ensure this region does not become home to terrorist cells, and has thwarted attacks against our peaceful communities. These measures enable us to be home to tens of thousands of families fleeing from chaos in Syria and other parts of Iraq, including minority Christians; allows us to be amongst the fastest growing economies, attracting unprecedented investment and trade as investors choose our region over the South, and paves the way for stronger ties with the international community through partnerships – all for the betterment of Iraq.
This month the US Federal Aviation Administration cited ‘increased stability’ in the Kurdistan Region to lift their 16-year-old ban on commercial flights by US carriers to Iraq, allowing flights only into Erbil and Slemani international airports – not Baghdad.
Senior officials in Baghdad should be petitioning our leaders, specifically Masrour Barzani, to exchange intel and expertise to rid the country of increasing violence, not stand united behind an emerging authoritarian man.
Al-Maliki is advocating a divide that will be difficult to undo. The continuation of his authoritarian policies against the Kurds and key political forces leaves him with few challenges as the President of Kurdistan Region, Masoud Barzani, has publicly declared the refusal to stay in a centralised or dictatorial Iraq.
We are a part of this country and should not abandon Baghdad for al-Maliki to rule single-handedly. The Kurdish leadership must recognise, however, that to those in Baghdad their unity is far more potent than our one-sided promotion of the Kurdish-Shia political alliance; the same politicians in al-Maliki's coalition condemning him of dictatorship have joined forces with him in the disputed provinces to compete in upcoming provincial elections.
The status quo requires strategic changes in our approach in Baghdad if we are to continue being a part of this country, including revisiting our political partnership with the largely-Shia Iraqi National Alliance.
Aziz Ahmad is a Kurdish writer based in Erbil, Kurdistan Region of Iraq. He is a graduate of Royal Holloway, University of London.