Osama al-Nujaifi, Iraqi Vice President and head of the newly-founded United for Iraq Sunni party [L] and Kurdish president Masoud Barzani discuss the future of Iraq on June 5, 2017 in Erbil. photo: Kurdistan Region Presidency media office
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdish President Masoud Barzani discussed the future of Iraq in a meeting with the leader of a newly-founded Sunni party that seeks greater autonomy for Sunni areas.
Osama al-Nujaifi, Iraq’s vice-president and the head of the United for Iraq or Mutahidun party, discussed with Barzani Iraq’s political landscape post-ISIS, next year’s general elections, and “the danger of the disappearance of the consensus and partnership,” a statement from the Kurdish presidency read on Monday.
Political consensus, as opposed to majority-government, has been the basis of the formation of the Iraqi central government since the US-invasion of the country in 2003. The arrangement has meant sharing key governmental positions among the country's components.
The Shiite National Alliance, a coalition of Shiite parties, currently holds the prime ministry and key ministerial positions including the Interior and Foreign Ministries. Sunni factions hold the parliament speaker position and the important Defense Ministry. Kurds have the presidency, but other key positions allocated to Kurds remain vacant, including the Finance Ministry after its minister Hoshyar Zebari was voted out by the Iraqi parliament last year.
A new initiative, supported by former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, head of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s Dawa party, seeks to form a majority government. Kurds have strongly opposed this, seeing it as against the principles of the new Iraqi state.
The KDP has already announced that they may boycott Iraq’s elections next year, an unprecedented move by a major Kurdish party not seen since the fall of the Baath regime 14 years ago.
Before the general elections take place, the Kurdistan Region plans to hold a referendum on independence. The vote is expected to be held in the fall and will include disputed areas claimed by both Baghdad and Erbil, almost all of which are located in Sunni areas, including Kirkuk and Nineveh.
The speaker of the Iraqi parliament, Salim al-Jabouri, a Sunni politician, said last month that they are standing in full force against any project that seeks to turn Iraq into “small states,” saying those who want to do so should seek life elsewhere.
“Iraq is one and will not be divided and anyone who seeks life outside this country should start looking for another country,” Jabouri said in a conference in Baghdad held for Iraqi Turkmens and attended by other politicians including Ammar al-Hakim, head of the ruling Shiite National Alliance.
“We will be absolutely against any idea of dividing or disintegrating the country under any name or excuse by this party or that, hiding behind and using the constitution to justify their ambitions and turning Iraq into small states at the mercy of regional wolves,” Jabouri declared, not mentioning any one party.
In addition to Kurdistan Region independence aspirations, some Sunni politicians from Mosul have called for a regional government in Nineveh similar to that of the Kurdistan Region.