Nov 26, 2010

Critical response of "Faith in Democracy: Islamization of the Iraqi Polity after Saddam Hussein"

Read the whole piece:

By: Abdulla Hawez

In his well-explained study "Beverley Milton-Edwards" demonstrates Islamization of the Iraqi polity post-Saddam Hussein. He argues that emergent of Islamic discourse is stifling the process of rebuilding democratically-protected Iraq. Edwards systematically addresses rising of insurgency in Iraq and concurrent democratic developments in post-Saddam era. First, he explains the Iraqi polity pre-war during Saddam Hussein regime. immediately, afterward, he shows that democracy discourse in unstable Iraqi post-war polity is a consistent tension between Islamic and Secular interpretations, and that will turn the post-war reconstruction more widely. subsequently, he argues whether the Iraqi post-war polity is Islamic Authoritarianism or Democracy? He thinks the dawn of a populist element of Islamism is not a new occurrence. concurrently, he mentions that populist Islam is a facet of the modern political era in the country that was exploited ruthlessly by its former leader. meanwhile, he gives two points that helped Islamists to become populist. First, political Islam had become a grand motif in the wake of the Cold War in the Middle East for anti-Westernism and indigenous populism. Second, populist Islam has materialized as a vibrant force in this modern maelstrom of politics – developing distinct internal identities and differences. Afterwards, he points out elements of Populist Islam. Then, he illustrates the populist trends of Islam. Simultaneously, he suggests that the first element of the populist trend is Shi’a in origin and Iranian-influenced. Equally important, he writes the second element lies within Iraq’s traditional Sunni religious elite and populist preachers – many of whom had been paid employees or religious functionaries of Saddam Hussein’s state. Moreover, subsequently, he believes that the two Islamic sectors acknowledged their own trends. In detail, he first emphasizes on the Shi’a ascendancy. He writes, violence against the Shi’a religious leadership and the attacks on their followers stained the early days of post-Saddam Iraq. Nevertheless, the leaders of the occupation believed that they could quickly marshal extensive Shi’a support for the reconstruction and democracy agenda. Furthermore, he notes that Iran, although publicly disdaining a role for itself in Shi’a dynamics in Iraq, has wielded significant influence over the debate about the Islamization of Iraq post-Saddam. Next, he comments on the Sunni element. He claims that in the past the Sunni of Iraq enjoyed a degree of influence that did not necessarily accord with their demographic strength. However, according to Edwards, the collapse of the Hussein regime was a threat to Sunni hegemony over the apparatus of the Iraqi state. Therefore, He argues, that the primary feature of Sunni Islamization is insurgency. Eventually, he contends, that democracy in Iraq is a long way off and it is most likely to emerge, even though, it might be as Muslim rather than liberal in character.

I think this study is deeply explaining post-war Iraqi polity. He gives us trends of the two main Iraqi religious sectors, and most of his informations are right about post-Saddam Iraqi polity. However, there is some lack of information about Kurds as one of the three main ethnics in Iraq. Edwards has tried to give us comprehensive study about the future of democracy in Iraq through showing all trends from Islamist Shi’a and Sunnis, but he totally neglects Kurds which they are highly contributing in the journey to utterly democracy in Iraq. I'm wondering whether if he knows about the significant place that Kurds have in current Iraqi polity or not? Even though, he demonstrates the Islamization of Iraqi polity, but Kurds also part of the Islamic society in Iraq. Moreover, i think, in spite of his conclusion which he thinks that democracy will emerge in Iraq soon or later, but he dosen't give any keys to convince us that iraq's future is vibrant and will approach to further democracy. Contrarily, what I really like about this study is the clear and strong language. Not only-but also, another marvelous point about this study is that the writer stands equally from all sides, which got rich the piece. Again, he thinks that Islamists can mix between their idological background and democracy, I think that's also a good point, because for now it's almost imposibble to talk about democracy without Islam. Thus, I think, he gives a hope for the future of democracy in Iraq. But, it isn't a garantte if we look at the Islamist's agenda and their thinking background. Accordingly, the study is good and we can rely on it to understand the Iraqi polity and how much Islamists rooted in politics and the future of domocracy under the rule of Islamists.

Nov 23, 2010

Turkish – Iranian blocs in Kurdistan

Abdulla Hawez Abdulla*

I have always heard about special relations between some Kurdish political parties with Iran, while they were on mountains. But, after the Kurdish uprising in 1991, these rumors have almost vanished.  Before a couple months, I have read a Kurdish wide-spared magazine here in northern Iraq about the two main blocs in here. I was reluctant at first, because I have no prevails to convince me. But what I have heard from Iranian media and PUK's jalal Talabani recently made me believe about the two political blocs that I was envisaging, one is Iran's allay, the other one is Turkey's. The question is emerging here; is northern Iraq's federal region going on "dual track"?
When, first, I heard from an Iranian Satalite channel, sharply condemning Massud Barzani the president of Kurdistan region, I wondered about the real reason behind this worsening in ties between the two sides. The Iranian channel's accusation was that Barzani has strong hazy relations with the "big satans" Israel and United States. But, some sourses told me, Iran's real bummer with Barzani is his Kurdistan Democratic Party or PDK's recently-improved ties with Turkey. In this current year, Nechirvan Barzani dupity president of PDK has visited Turkey three times, that's in spite of, Turkish high ranks one after the one are visiting Arbil. tallies are showing that 10 high meetings took place between Turkish high ranks represented by prime minister Erdogan and foreign and interior ministers, compared to two high ranked meetings between Jalal Talababi's PUK and Turkey. Furthermore, another reason that sustain my opinion is in 90s and early years of this century, PDK took battles against PKK, and became PKK's foe in Tukrey's side.The other important political party that counts in this bloc is Kurdistan Islamic Union or KIU which they also have seen Turkish high ranks more than once, despite, historical relations between Justice and development party or AKP and KIU. 
Iraqi president and PUK leader Jalal Talabani and Turkey always have tried to have good ties,but as we saw from Talabani's most recent interview with a Turkish daily, Iran breakthrough the relations and took back Talabani to his bloc as they have hostoric ties. Indeed, no one can deny what Talabani said about Turkish role in Iraq. "Turkey was trying to takedown me and Almaliki" Talabani said. Actually, Barzani's initiative to get a path for Iraq's deadlock was giving Alawi the chair of presidency, but Iran intervine at the last minute. I think that's obvious reason to say Talabani is in Iran's bloc, while Barzani is in Turkey's side. Even, during the negotiations for forming the Iraqi government, There was closeness between Barzani and Alawi, while Talabani was closer to Almaliki. In northern Iraq, except the two political parties that I named above, all the other parties are iran's ally such as change movement and Islamic group. But, still, Turkish bloc is more powerful, though the two political parties have more votes.
As they are both nighbours of northern Iraq and two biggest regional powers, Turkey and Iran want to have more influnce on the Kurdish region. As the Kurdistan Regional Government or KRG trying to build peaceful and presperet region, it's remarkably lucrative for us two build up better relations with Turkey, because more than half of our economy is based on Turkish inverstments and exports. It's harmful for us to make our region two blocs, one of them become a hurdle to make ties with the other.But we have to be smart enough to pick trump for our region to have closer ties with. What Jalal Talabani said about Turkey is nothing just deepening the discord. I believe president Talabani should re-take steps to make his ties stronger with Turkey, because that's prerequisite to become triumphant in his new term of presidency, because Turkey's influnce inconceivable in iraq, and it grows repiddly as it's economy growing.

* Kurdish Journalist from northern Iraq

Oct 11, 2010

Turkey-KRG ties: How and why did they improve this much?

Abdulla Hawez Abdulla*

I remember how relations between the Turkish government and northern Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) used to be. Both sides were ambivalent about how to deal with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and had to wrangle over the matter. But these thoughts became obsolete after 2009 and transformed into marvelous relations. Some may wonder how and why they moved away from being enemies to being partners.
We should first mention that before this era of good relations between Turkey and the KRG, there was only one Turkish institution working in Arbil, the pro-Fethullah Gülen Fezalar Eğitim Kurumları (Fezalar Educational Institutes). But Fezalar stayed away from politics. Despite this, it has close ties with Justice and Development Party (AKP) ally the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), and so Fezalar used KIU members to work with it.
Because the Gülen movement’s ideological background is based on Kurdish Islamic scholar Said Nursi’s thoughts, this institute was accepted by Kurds, especially those who are religious. Many intellectuals believed this movement, a mixture between Kurdish and Turkish leadership, is in the best position to make ties between Turks and Kurds closer. And that is exactly what happened. First a Turkish delegation from Turkey and the Turkish ambassador in Baghdad, in addition to KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, participated in the inauguration of Işık University in Arbil. With this, they turned a new page in history. It must also be said that this institution played a major role in changing the perception of Turkey in northern Iraq.

I’m not saying this was a turning point in relations between the two sides, but it was the first and hardest step to take.

I believe what pushed both sides to improve their relations was that both realized how much they need the other. That means their relations have been built on mutual interests. On the one hand northern Iraq needs Turkey in the rebuilding process, while on the other Turkey needs northern Iraq’s significant natural resources for the Nabucco project.
Nevertheless, the Turkish government’s opening to Kurds in both Turkey and northern Iraq easily divides the AKP’s term in government into two periods. The first is before Ahmet Davutoğlu took on the position of foreign minister, while the second is after he was appointed foreign minister. The real turning point in relations between the sides took place during Professor Davutoğlu’s term as foreign minister. He, with several other ministers, visited Arbil and met with northern Iraqi President Massoud Barzani. I think this was the turning point in relations between the two sides. Following this, many Turkish delegations came to Arbil, including that of Turkish Interior Minister Beşir Atalay and the head of the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT), which secretly met with Massoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party deputy Nechirvan Barzani.
I think these relations will strengthen further because of mutual interests. A quick glance over some figures makes the picture even clearer. Northern Iraq has between 100 trillion to 200 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and the Nabucco pipeline project needs 1.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year, meaning the KRG can supply the entire needs of Nabucco. That is the main reason why Turkey should stay in touch with the KRG.
Also, Turkey is the KRG’s main business partner. There are 1,170 foreign companies in northern Iraq, of which 604 are Turkish. Also, from 2006 to 2009, $14 billion in investments were made in northern Iraq, of which Turkish investments accounted for 20 percent, a significant figure. Turkish exports to northern Iraq have passed the $8 billion mark. This is despite several large projects Turkish companies are involved in in the KRG, including a $6 billion electricity project. Furthermore, Turkey’s first private university, Bilkent University, will open a branch in Arbil. Also, more than 1,500 vehicles cross the border on both sides daily.
Now, with economic relations very strong, political ties between Turkey and the KRG are also becoming strong. Cooperation between them to solve the Kurdish issue is at high levels. This cooperation is reflected inside Turkey. While in İstanbul, I spoke with a friend of mine in a shop in Kurdish. The shop owner said he’s also Kurdish. I asked him if it was dangerous to speak in Kurdish or to say that I’m Kurdish. He said that in recent years everything had changed for us. No one hurts us because of our ethnicity or language, and we are free.
I can envisage the Kurdish issue solved by 2020 and new civil constitution approved as Turkey’s constitution as well as the PKK having laid down its arms. Investments being made in predominantly Kurdish cities are higher, and they are helping the government improve the economy. Turkey has become one of the world’s 10 largest economies and northern Iraq’s first ally.

*Abdulla Hawez Abdulla is a Kurdish journalist from northern Iraq.

This article has been published on Turkey's English leading daily TODAY'S ZAMAN:

This article has been published on the English version of Middle East Online:

This article has been republished on Peyamner News Agency:

Sep 15, 2010

Northern Iraq’s ‘evet’ celebration

Abdulla H. Abdulla*

Because of the Kurdish issue in Turkey, Kurds in northern Iraq are always observing the situation in Turkey.
Kurdish media covered the referendum campaign daily, allowing people here in northern Iraq to observe news on the referendum. Many people here know more about the content of the constitutional package than the Turks themselves. Like the Turks, people here were also divided into two groups: one supportive of the amendments and the other opposing them.

But, and surprisingly, despite the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) anti-amendment campaign, most people here in northern Iraq supported the Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) democracy-oriented package because, they believe, those changes are just a path for wide change that will boost democracy and human rights, developments through which Kurds will get more rights.
Most Kurdish media supported the amendments because they believed the changes would bring more rights to Kurds and open the door for more reforms vis-a-vis the Kurdish issue. On Sunday, after announcing the results of the referendum, Kurdish media talked about it in a positive way and as a victory for Kurds, irrespective of the BDP’s boycott. Like the media, Kurdish politicians supported the constitutional package. Both Massoud Barzani, the president of northern Iraq’s administration, and Jalal Talabani, the president of Iraq, asked that Kurds in Turkey vote in favor of the amendments.
In recent years, Turkey’s popularity has risen in northern Iraq’s Kurdish-populated region thanks to the AK Party’s Kurdish-friendly policies. Prior to 2003, Iran’s popularity among Kurds was much higher than Turkey’s. But, in recent years, as well as Turkey having become northern Iraq’s top economic partner, its culture and lifestyle have also become popular. People are now trying to learn Turkish even more than English. Also, more people in Arbil, the capital of northern Iraq, can speak Turkish than Arabic and English. Turkish songs are as popular as Kurdish songs, and Turkish dramas are being broadcast on TV more than Kurdish dramas.
Even the style of Turkish parties has become popular among Kurdish parties. This is especially true of the AK Party, which is Islamic, social-conservative and uses a Western political style. The party is more popular than most Kurdish parties in northern Iraq. There is much talk among Islamic parties to use the AK Party as a blueprint. The Kurdistan Islamic Union, known as a close ally of Turkey’s AK Party in northern Iraq and the main Islamic opposition party, is now facing pressure among its supporters and some reformist leaders to make its political style just like that of the AK Party.
What is happening now is normal because Turkey’s popularity in the whole of the Middle East region is rising. As long as the AK Party stays in power, and as long as the AK Party continues its effort to solve the long-standing Kurdish issue, Turkey will remain popular and most likely increase in popularity among Kurds in northern Iraq. The Iraqi Kurds’ celebrating through their media the strong go-ahead vote on the Turkish constitutional amendment package was nothing short of a sign that they support the government’s Kurdish-friendly policies.

*Kurdish Journalist from northern Iraq.

* This article has been published on Turkey's English leading daily Today's Zaman:

May 20, 2010

The BDP, which is opposing the package just like the CHP and MHP, is going to have considerable difficulty in explaining its strange stance to its constituency

By: Abdulla Hawez khoshnaw
May 03, 2010

An interview with "Bülent Keneş" editor-in-chief of Todays zaman. He is answering our questions about Turkish constitutional amendments, and president Barzani's visit to Turkey.

Abdulla: Can you tell us, what are the most important articles in the Governments constitutional amendments?

Bülent Keneş: As you know, Turkey’s current constitution was fashioned by soldiers following the Sept. 12, 1980 military coup d’état. The constitution, which the soldiers formulized in such a way as to perpetuate the military coup regime and military tutelage over the political system, has been amended a total 16 times to date. Despite the scores of changes, none of these affected the constitution’s militarist spirit. Today’s reform package is the first attempt to change those constitutional articles which enshrine the Sept. 12 military order and the sword of immunity of the military. When viewed from this perspective, the most important articles in this amendment package are the changes that pave the way for soldiers to be tried in civilian courts and the changes to the organization of the high judiciary that save the high judiciary from the Kemalist-militarist monopolization of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) line.

            It is glaringly clear that the processes of the high judiciary and normal judiciary determined by the prosecutors and judges appointed by the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) are controlled by the CHP, military and high judicial bureaucracy. The current HSYK comprises seven members; the justice minister and undersecretary of the Justice Ministry fill two of these seats, while the remaining five positions are determined by the Supreme Court of Appeals and Council of State. This means that the HSYK determines the members of the Supreme Court of Appeals and Council of State, and these two organs in turn determine the HSYK membership. That is to say, the Turkish high judiciary controls the entire judicial mechanism as part of a system that is shut off from the public and oligarchic. The system is independent from politics, but not impartial. It is under the direction of the military, the judicial bureaucracy and the CHP. And if it is considered that during the time of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) administration, the decisions made by the Constitutional Court, Council of State and Supreme Court of Appeals have all been against the government and the expectations of the public, we can understand easily that it is not possible to speak of the impartiality of the high judiciary.

            The reform package in question reorganizes the HSYK’s structure so that instead of just 500 high justices, it will represent all of the roughly 12,000 judges and prosecutors, and so that Parliament will have a say in the matter as well. Taking European Union criteria and examples from European countries as a model, the number of HSYK members is increased to 21 in the package. While there is no parallel to the current HSYK in any democratic state of law, the recommended structure can find its likes in many western democratic states of law.

            In addition, the 11-member Constitutional Court will have its membership increased to 17, paving the way for the institution to make impartial and independent decisions. The Constitutional Court, which almost shut down the AK Party that won the votes of 47 percent of the public, and in the past has shut down 26 political parties, most of them pro-Kurdish, will have a tougher time shutting down political parties under this new organization, and will have its decisions subject to parliamentary approval. Unfortunately, this article has dropped form the package since BDP has not given support for it.

            The reform package also amends the laws that grant immunity to the generals who staged the Sept. 12, 1980 coup and pave the way for the trial of these coup generals.        


Abdulla: In your opinion, can AK Party passes the whole package at the parliament?

Bülent Keneş:  The AK Party has unfortunately stood alone in its reform efforts. All of the other actors in Turkish politics -- the victim of the Sept. 12, 1980 military coup d’état -- have unfortunately turned their backs to this historic opportunity. Despite the fact that the CHP is the only political benefactor of current resistance to the reform, the MHP and BDP haven’t shied from taking their place on the CHP line opposing constitutional change, despite over 60 percent of their voters support the reform package. Despite this, I think that the reform package to transform the republic, which is a national security state, into a democratic republic will be passed in parliament and presented to the people for a referendum. The package has succeded in securing between 331 and 339 votes for the first round of voting, and even if supported only by the AK Party will gain the minimum votes necessary to go to referendum. In the case that the AK Party doesn’t lose any votes from its own deputies, and gets over 330 votes but does not gain the 367 votes that would mean the package would go directly to the president for approval, then the package must go to the public in a referendum. In my opinion, the package’s going to referendum is a great opportunity for constitutional change. A reform approved or rejected by the people makes it out of the question for the Constitutional Court to repeal the result.

 Abdulla: Have anything in the constitutional package that improves the democratic standards for the sake of Kurdish issue? If yes, why BDP didn't vote for the most articles?

Bülent Keneş:  It is without a doubt that our Kurdish citizens are the biggest victims of both the Sept. 12, 1980 military coup and the political order and Constitution that this coup erected. The 30-article constitutional reform package contains elements that will lessen this victimhood. For example, the political parties shut down the most in this country are parties that are traditionally pro-Kurdish. One of the articles in the reform package makes it more difficult to shut down political parties. When you consider that the most recently shut-down party was the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), it can be easily guessed that this amendment article will pave the way for an incredible easing of Kurdish politics. Unfortunately, the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) established in the DTP’s stead has elected to support the chauvinist and militarist policies of the CHP and MHP instead of supporting the constitutional amendment package that will benefit Kurds the most, due to the BDP having other expectations from the government outside of constitutional change. Certainly, the BDP is right to raise voice on the subject of bringing the elections threshold down further from the 10 percent from the AK Party, and the dealing of funds from the Treasury to them. But this desire of the BDP’s has nothing to do with the constitutional reform package. What falls upon the BDP is for them to support the package, and it falls upon democrats to lend an ear to the party’s demands regarding the elections threshold. The BDP, which is opposing the package just like the CHP and MHP, is going to have considerable difficulty in explaining its strange stance to its constituency. And, unfortunately on Monday since BDP did not give support, the amendment related to party closure has droped from the refrom package.    

Abdulla: As we are observing, the democratic initiative by the Turkish government almost stopped, in your view of point, what are the reasons behind halting this initiative?

Bülent Keneş:  In Turkey, it’s not possible to effect democratic initiatives without shifting the system’s structural foundations. Your ability to conduct a reform on one topic, to begin upon an enterprise is closely related to foreign policy, general domestic politics, security perceptions and the system of the high judiciary. Ultimately, problems like the Kurdish problem, the Alevi problem and the problems of minorities boil down to Turkey’s system problem. Turkey is encountering difficulty in solving these other problems one by one without solving this broader systematic problem. For example, the initiative to solve the Kurdish problem gets bogged down by the judiciary’s shutting down the Kurdish party, or when some militarist circles conduct conspiratorial plots. The AK Party is for the first time doing the right thing as opposed to individual initiatives. It is attempting to correct the twisted system that creates all these problems. In the event that the country’s problems with regard to becoming a nation of democracy and a state of law are solved, we can say from now that the process to solve the Kurdish problem and the other problems will move more quickly. When you look at it in this way, it’s not possible to speak of a pause or retreat from the democratic initiative. Just the opposite, an attempt is being made to remove the obstacles from the course, one by one. We will all observe together how the democratic initiative will gain speed following the completion of the constitutional amendment process.

Abdulla: If the AKP could pass the constitutional reform package, what is likely going to be CHP, military, and judiciary's reaction?

Bülent Keneş: We known that a pro-coup formation within the military is doing all it can to stall democratic initiatives. The CHP has announced that it appeal the package at the Constitutional Court. I also think that prevocational acts that might be staged at this time by some axis of evil within the military might also be partially influential. I think the CHP will not achieve any results from this move as challenging a package being referred to a public referendum at the Constitutional Court is neither lawful, nor democratic. It would be a big surprise if the Constitutional Court accepts this appeal at the risk of completely ignoring the law and democracy, and it would also mean that Turkey is neither ruled under the rule of law a democracy. What surprises me most however, is not the CHP or the military. I am most surprised by the BDP’s anti stance and the PKK’s escalating violence and terrorist acts in a way that would serve the interests of the hawkish members of the military and the fascists in the MHP and the CHP. I have no longer any doubt that the PKK, which is escalating bloody acts at a time when hawkish generals, the CHP, the MHP and the oligarchic high judiciary need exactly that, is on the side of a militarist order rather than democracy.

Abdulla: Kurdistan President Mr. Massud Barzani is going to visit Turkey in a formal trip, in your opinion, what's going to be the discussion between Barzani and Turkish high ranks? Does Barzani visit Turkey as a president or under his PDK title?

Bülent KeneşTurkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s visit to Arbil in November of 2009 has been a milestone in relations between Turkey and the Northern Iraq Regional Kurdish Administration. I think Barzani’s trip will be a courtesy visit to return Davutoğlu’s visit. Important issues such as the establishment of a Turkish Consulate in Arbil and the Turkish Airlines’ starting regular flights to that city might be taken up during this visit. The discussion topics might include cooperation in trade, education and cultural relations as well as the state of Iraq’s Kurds in the post-election chaos. Naturally, I presume that the attitude of the Barzani administration against the presence of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the region and the role northern Iraq might play in the Turkish government’s democratic initiative will come up during the talks.

Abdulla: My last question, if AKP could pass the constitutional changes, and people voted for the changes, what's going to be the future of Kurdish issue?

Bülent KeneşOur Kurdish citizens will benefit the most from the Constitutional reform that will be carried out despite the Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) stance against the package. Thanks to these reforms, the military leg of the investigation into Ergenekon will deepen and this will create the opportunity for a more profound and through investigation into the unsolved murders in the southeast. The Kurds, who have suffered worst under the current system, will benefit the most from the increasingly democratic atmosphere of the country and its higher standards of law.

This interview published on "AsoyNewdawlati" in Kurdish

Feb 26, 2010

Ba’athism as a political ideology has no place in today’s Iraq

Here is an interview with professor  Daniel Serwer, vice president of the Centers of Innovation in institute of peace based in Washington D.C. He leads the Institute's centers of innovation in rule of law, religion and peacemaking, sustainable economies, media and conflict, science, technology and peacebuilding and diaspora contributions to peace and conflict.

By: Abdulla Hawez

Abdulla: As lots of Newspapers mentioned conflict between Arabs and Kurds might happen, if coalition troops withdraw in Iraq? Do you expect any sectarian conflicts in Iraq as far?

Serwer: I don’t think we can yet rule out conflict after Coalition troops withdraw.  We need an intensive effort to resolve some of the Kurdish/Arab territorial disputes, and to get all of them into a process that both sides can regard as fair. 

Abdulla: If any anticipated conflict take place, in your opinion who might be a possible mediator between them?

Serwer : Hard to say, but certainly the UN and US would have to do what they could to stop any conflict. 

Abdulla: Do you think without “Baathes” reconciliation can happen in Iraq? (Now for upcoming Iraqi parliament election accountability and justice organization ban a lot of candidates for they are Baathes. What do you say about that).

Serwer: You make peace with your enemies, not with your friends.  Ba’athism as a political ideology has no place in today’s Iraq—the current constitution makes that clear.  But there are lots of people who were Ba’athists in the past who need to be brought back into the political process, provided they renounce violence and acknowledge the current constitutional regime.  I don’t see how preventing them from running for election helps bring them back into the political process.

Abdulla: How do you see Security in Iraq? As election is up, do you think the security would become worse?  

Serwer: It might get significantly worse, especially if the electoral process is not seen as free and fair. 

Abdulla: How do you see the future of negotiation between KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) and Baghdad’s central government over oil and gas law and over disputed territories?

Serwer: I’m disappointed that more has not been accomplished both on the hydrocarbons law and on disputed territories.  The issues are moreover linked, so it seems to me progress on one might be made easier if we had some progress on the other.  USIP has recently published a paper on these issues, which I commend to your attention:

Abdulla: How do you assess Kurds role in Iraq? Do you act as mediator between Sunnis and Sheaas?

Serwer: No, I don’t see the Kurdish role in Iraq as one of mediator between Sunni and Shia, but I do think the Kurds are an important factor in maintaining Iraq as a single country.  I also think it is important that Kurdish leaders protect Kurdish interests within Iraq, in addition to helping the country govern itself more effectively

Abdulla: I like to ask you about Media’s role also, what shall media do to close pilitical’s viewpoint over disputed issues?

Serwer: Accurate and professional reporting will help a great deal.  Sensationalist and inaccurate reporting will make things worse. 

Abdulla: What do you recommend for Iraqis until get out from this sectarian inflamed?

Serwer: It is not for me to recommend to Iraqis, but I do think that ordinary Iraqis can play an important role by signaling to their political leaderships that they don’t want to see violent confrontation.  Iraq has institutions—the Council of Representatives, the government, the Constitutional Court—that can manage disputes and point in the direction of nonviolent solutions.  If the people make clear that that is what they want, they are more likely to get it. 

Abdulla: My last question is about Iraq’s political environment as all, what do you expect to happen in the upcoming election? Do you expect radical change in Iraqis political map?

Serwer: The provincial elections in January pointed in the direction of some realignment away from more sectarian political parties and towards more nationalist and even secular forces.  There have also been important changes in Kurdistan, with the emergence of a third political force.  Will this continue?  Hard to tell at this point:  what counts is not only the outcome of the voting but also the subsequent process of choosing a president and empowering a prime minister and his government. 
The key thing for Iraqis to understand is that their votes count.  The key thing for the political leadership to understand is that the integrity of the electoral process is as important as the outcome.  Iraqis have a great opportunity in March to take back their country and lay the basis for a much better future.  Or they can sow the seeds of future division and conflict.  The Americans I know will be happy to see free and fair elections that lay the basis for a peaceful and prosperous Iraq.

This interview published on Aso daily newspaper in Kurdish.

The ‘open list’ will hurt the PDK and PUK more than other parties

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute; senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School's Center for Civil-Military Relations; and a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly. Between 2002 and 2004, Rubin worked as a staff advisor for Iran and Iraq in OSD/ISA/NESA at the Pentagon, in which capacity he was seconded to Iraq. He also worked as lecturer in Salahadeen, Sulimani and Duhik universities in Kurdistan region of Iraq.

By: Abdulla Hawez

Abdulla: Let me begin with the latest event which is Iraq’s election law, Masoud Barzani the Kurdistan president said that he fails down its demands over Iraq’s election low, because U.S.A. Promises him that they will push Iraq’s Gov’t to implement the 140 article over disputed lands, What’s your opinion do you think USA promises going to implement, or it was just to win Kurds vote over election low? What are the possible scenarios over Kurkik province?

Michael Rubin: I would be cautious about placing too much hope on American promises. Masud Barzani should understand this because of Henry Kissinger and the events of 1975. Henry Kissinger was a realist, and so is President Obama. Obama wanted an immediate deal with the Kurds over the elections, and this is what Masud Barzani gave Obama. Next year, if the situation will change, White House policy will change irrespective of President Obama’s promises.
Personally, I support Article 140 and think the Iraqi constitution should be followed, but I do not expect the status quo to change in Kirkuk. The next time Obama needs something from Baghdad, he’ll compromise on Kirkuk in a way that will not be to the benefit of the Kurds.

Abdulla: Do you think over the new election law, Kurds are going to lose some of their chairs in the Iraqi parliament?

Rubin: Perhaps the Kurdistani list will lose some seats, but not the Kurds. The ‘open list’ will hurt the PDK and PUK more than other parties because of public anger at corruption in the PDK and PUK, and public anger at the tendency of both PDK and PUK to prioritize family over competence. Barzani is fond of warning that voting for other Kurdish parties, be they Goran or Yekgertu will undercut the Kurdish position in Baghdad, but I do not accept this. From my experience in Kurdistan, both the Goran and Yekgertu support the Kurdish position on issues such as Kirkuk just as much as the PDK or PUK. They differ only on approach to corruption, which both Goran and Yekgertu approach in a more serious fashion and, in the case of Yekgertu, some social issues.

Abdulla: According to PUK and PDK’s agreement, a couple months before they exchange some of their top position’s like: Dr. Barham Salih became KRG prime minister after Nichervan Barzani’s primary for long period? Do you think Salih can success in his new position or no? (Or do you think PDK like Salih as Prime minister or no?) 

Rubin: I like Dr. Barham and think he is extremely competent. But he is in a difficult position. He has very little support within the PUK, and even less in the PDK. There is no way Masud Barzani or Nechervan Barzani will let Dr. Barham accomplish more than Kak Nechervan, which is to say nothing. Everyone knows that Masud Barzani has passed a directive to all PDK members to limit their cooperation with Dr. Barham. The Barzani’s have not let Dr. Barham select even his own staff. It seems Dr. Barham’s main job is to keep the seat warm for Nechervan.

 Abdulla: How do you see Kurdish-Turkish relations? In the latest months Turksih foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and interior Minister Bashir Atalay visited Kurdistan region, in your opinion what’s the possible cases that maybe they negotiated with Kurdish leaders?

Rubin: I am happy that Iraqi Kurdish-Turkish relations are improving. Much of the relationship is commercial: Barzani and Erdogan both have commercial interests and use the relationship to enrich themselves. While I think both Turkey and Kurdistan deserve governments which are less corrupt and more transparent, I support Turkish investment in Kurdistan since it leads both to improvements in Kurdistan and creates a disincentive to war. Much of the talk was commercial. 
Some of the talks were political, relating to amnesty for the PKK members living in Iraqi Kurdistan. Alas, as Erdogan’s popularity slips, he will increase his rhetoric toward the PKK, DTP, and other Kurdish organizations in Turkey and this may cause renewed tension.

Abdulla: According the agreement between USA and Iraq, coalition troops are going to withdraw in Iraq this year, do you think Central government and KRG are compromise their issues or the problems become worse? Which scenario you anticipate?

Rubin: I expect the problems to become worse, especially in Mosul. But make no mistake: The U.S. troops will withdrawal. And it will be difficult for U.S. troops to stay in Kurdistan. Masrour Barzani may be one of the reasons why the United States cannot stay in Kurdistan. If the United States were to keep personnel in Kurdistan, the Pentagon would require there be no political interference. Masrour Barzani, however, puts personal interests ahead of Kurdish interests. When he ordered his agency to ban me from Iraqi Kurdistan, he forgot I still work for the U.S. military, and so he demonstrated that the Kurdistan Regional Government and security forces cannot be trusted to refrain from political interference with employees of the U.S. military.

Abdulla: How do you see the cold war between Change (Gorran) movement’s Nawsherwan Mustafa and PUK’s Jalal Talabani? Do you think this rough debate between them is going to weak Kurds in Baghdad after upcoming election?

Rubin: Almost every Kurds I have ever met, regardless of their political affiliation, agree on issues such as Kirkuk, so I do not think the debate itself will weaken Kurds in Baghdad. The Kurdish parties will hold out for the best deal.
I do expect Mam Jalal’s position to be hurt, however. Many Iraqis question his health and whether someone so unhealthy should be president. And many Iraqis question whether Mam Jalal, who has been so unable to lead his own political party effectively, should lead Iraq.

Abdulla: Are USA count Kurds as its ally or no? How Kurds can become USA allies?

Rubin: The Kurds are U.S. allies, for now at least. Americans are naturally sympathetic to the Kurds. But the Kurds are not solid U.S. allies for two reasons:
• First, the Kurds do not understand that the United States will want good relations, not just with Iraqi Kurdistan, but also with Iraq and Turkey. Too often, the Kurds demand that the United States choose between its allies and, if forced to do that, Washington will not choose Kurdistan. Remember: The United States is allies with both Saudi Arabia and Israel. Neither Israel nor Saudi Arabia demand the U.S. minimize relations with the other, so why do the Kurds demand that the U.S. choose sides in fights with Baghdad or Ankara?
• Second, the Kurds’ representation in Washington has not done a good job. It has not been able to escape the Kurdish mentality. In Kurdistan, want good relations with one political party or the other political party. But in Washington, it is important to have good relations with both political parties. To be friends with the Democrats, however, the Kurds have attacked Republicans. This is not the way to make friends. What the Kurds should have done is leave U.S. politics to the Americans and tried to be friend with both Democrats and Republicans.

Abdulla: How do you see the future of oil contracts? Do you think DNO scandal going to weaken Kurdish position over gas and oil law in Iraqi parliament?

Rubin: I don’t know how this is going to work out, and I’ll stay out of my dispute between Erbil and Baghdad on this one. What bothers me are three things:

• The corruption involved in the Kurdish oil contracts, with payoffs of millions of dollars going to Barzani or, in some cases, Talabani. I’ve seen several oil contracts, and they are disgusting examples of the corruption of the major Kurdish families.
• The involvement of American officials is deeply embarrassing. Many American officials-whether former military officials or even a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq-have entered into business relations with the Kurdistan Regional Government. Many of these officials like to suggest that they are in Erbil with the blessing and endorsement of the U.S. government. That is not true. They are in Erbil because of their own greed, and that is a black mark against the image of all Americans.
• My criticism of DNO and, by extension, Peter Galbraith was not about oil, but rather about human rights. Peter Galbraith should be honored for his work in the 1980s and early 1990s advocating for the Kurds, especially after the Anfal. But once he decided to do business, he stopped caring about human rights. He remained silent as the Barzanis began abusing Iraqi Kurds. He remained silent when the PDK attacked the Yekgertu office in Duhok ahead of the 2005 elections. It was Peter Galbraith’s silence which shows just how corrupting Kurdish oil money can be.

This interview published in Yakgrtu weekly newspaper in Kurdish.