In a smooth transition of power, Iraqi forces have in recent days taken over control of contested areas, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, from Kurdish forces. Press TV has reviewed the latest developments in a discussion with political activist Hazem Salem as well as member of Baghdad Security Council Saad Muttalibi.
Hazem Salem commended the “well-planned” operation to retake Kirkuk which involved “enormous” political gains for the central government.
The current circumstances prove the fallacy of the calculations by the leader of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani, he said, noting that the Kurds pushed ahead with the independence vote despite warnings from all sides, because they were pinning their hopes on Washington’s support.
On the other hand, he explained, as it turned out the presumably powerful Kurdish Peshmerga forces were unwilling to fight over the disputed territories because they knew that the result would be division and civil war.
Kurdish forces had been holding parts of the Iraqi territory since 2014, when they began fighting Daesh and overrunning some areas.
This had led to repeated demands by the Baghdad government that Kurdish forces hand over the areas under their control, and the subsequent refusals by the Kurds.
Salem further expressed hope that the narrative of Kurdistan’s secession from the mainland would be replaced by the narrative of national unity and equality.
“There has to be a lot of talks and a lot of reintegration of the Iraqi identity among the Kurds in order to believe that they are Kurds; but still they are Iraqis and they are part of the Iraqi people with all the diversity that Iraq has,” he stated.
Government forces have taken over the reins of power in the northern city after pushing back Kurdish militants.
Elaborating on the US role in the Iraqi government’s standoff with the Kurdish leaders, Salem highlighted Washington’s strategy of ‘divide and rule’ in the Middle East, which plays on “contradictions” and “misinterpretations” among different groups in order to destabilize the region.
He argued that Washington lends its support to any separatist movements that help it make new allies in the region.
The analyst further emphasized the role of Iran and Turkey as the most “important and prominent stabilizing factors” in the Middle East, arguing that these two neighbors can create very productive conditions by harmonizing their steps together.
Salem gave assurances that “the storm has passed” with regard to the issue of Kurdistan independence, but warned of terrorist activities with an aim to harm Iraq’s security and stability and show that “the Kurdish cause is not dead.”
Meanwhile, the other panelist Saad Muttalibi explained that Baghdad never intended to wage a war on the Peshmerga forces in Kirkuk, but to regain full constitutional control over the city.
He also highlighted the fact that the Peshmerga were not in a position to fight because they were frustrated with the current state of affairs, and were well aware that the separation of Kurdistan was a “wrong decision.”
The analyst further noted that Barzani is now “totally isolated” because he has proven to act against the interests of the Kurds as well as the state of Iraq.
He pointed out to growing calls for the arrest and trial of the Kurdish leader.
Muttalibi said the United States and Israel, which were initially planning to set up bases in an independent Kurdistan, are now disappointed with the outcome and think they have lost a strategic ally.
According to the analyst, unfortunately the Kurds “misjudged” the international and regional calls for canceling the independence referendum.