Barzani's Forthcoming Visit To Baghdad
The media have recently said that the president of Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Masoud Barzani will pay a visit to the Iraqi capital Baghdad for meeting with its leaders. This will be the first time Barzani has come to Baghdad since his failed effort to hold the referendum of the Kurdish independence from Iraq. Thus, it is expected that it will have many meanings.
Baghdad and Erbil are trying to boost their economic ties. Lately, they have unexpectedly agreed to re-open Kirkuk's pipeline to convey oil to Turkey through the Kurdistan region.
This step will strengthen their incomes needed to support their economic plans. Observers confirmed that there had been an American role behind that rapprochement between these parties.
Washington wants Baghdad to increase its oil exports through this pipeline to 1 million barrels a day. By this, it can compensate the Iranian oil exports that will be withheld from the energy market because of the latest American sanctions.
Baghdad and Erbil will have a good opportunity if they exploit this geopolitical scene that is being shaped in this region. In the end, this will depend on their ability to understand this strategic turning and on their willingness to settle their disputes.
The Kurds are attempting to reap greater benefits through amending their share in the financial budget. They want to increase their share to be 17% rather than (12,67%) that the previous Iraqi Prime minister Haidar al-Abadi approved to spite the Kurdish plebiscite.
Erbil suffered a lot because of that decision and thus it is now working hard to convince politicians in Baghdad that that economic punishment was wrong. However, this deal cannot be done without a price that the Kurds will have to pay.
Erbil managed to mobilize its people for voting in favour of the independence. That led to increasing the tensions with Baghdad, which confirmed that the Kurds at that time formed a threat to Iraq's geographical unity.
Thus, Baghdad might ask Erbil to give up its separatist ambitions in exchange for getting this share in the budget and raising its economic participation in the whole Iraqi activities. This will rhyme with the American desire affirming that the Kurds must play a more active role in Iraqi politics.
Barzani and the new Iraqi prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi have good relations. They have not exchanged hostile statements against each other in the past years. Both of them are sure that any conflict between them will overshadow on the security issues, especially in Mosul city that was a stronghold of IS in Iraq.
Abdul Mahdi also believes that Barzani can be a support element to his fragile government. Barzani's party has 25 seats in the Iraqi parliament and has strong linkages with the US. Hence, he might be a source of reliability to the roles that Abdul Mahdi is playing in Iraq's politics.
KDP has many disagreements with its Kurdish rival: the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Barzani does not like to leave any vacuum in the Kurdistan region or in Baghdad as he fears of being exploited by the PUK.
In Baghdad, the stature of the Iraqi president Barham Salih, who belongs to the PUK, is rising unprecedentedly. This might lead to creating a Kurdish leader who can put the future of Barzani's role at risk. Thus, Barzani will make the best of his efforts to compete Salih's achievements locally and regionally.
Accordingly, many sources have assured that Barzani will visit some Arab Gulf states after the termination of his negotiations in Baghdad. In fact, the media were actively talking about the last successful visit of Barham Salih to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait. Hence, it will just be a reaction to Salih's visit to these important states.
However, many experts have stated that Baghdad and Erbil must not hold any secret agreements. This approach is convicted and refused because it previously resulted in deteriorating the relations between Barzani and the former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.
The constitution and law must be the only reference that all Iraqi politicians adhere to. Otherwise, conflicts will break out at any time.
In short, there are new developments in Iraq in the heels of the May election. Barzani's visit to Baghdad is hoped to open a different page in the course of their relations. This might restore the balance to the Iraqi politics in a way that at least allows Baghdad and Erbil to counter the threat of terrorism and support their ability to face the challenges.
Diyari Salih is an Iraqi academic, Ph.D. in Political Geography, Baghdad, Post-Doctorate in International Relations, Warsaw, Focuses on the Geopolitical Issues in Iraq.