File photo: US Special Presidential Envoy to the Global anti-ISIS Coalition Brett McGurk [L] and Kirkuk Governor Nakmaldin Karim pose for a picture in Washington DC in 2016. Photo: pukpb.org
KIRKUK, Kurdistan Region – The US Special Presidential Envoy to the Global anti-ISIS Coalition has described the decision by Iraqi parliament to remove the Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim as “wrong" and one that should have never happened in the first place, Governor Karim claimed. He also denied that his party has voted against holding the independence vote in Kirkuk.
Governor Karim said that he received a phone call from US Envoy Brett McGurk, Thursday after the vote.
Rudaw and Kurdistan 24 conducted an interview with the Governor Karim at about the same time when McGurk held a press conference in Erbil. McGurk did not mention the vote by the Iraqi parliament; neither did he mention having contacted Governor Karim.
The US State Department declined to comment to Rudaw on the alleged phone call.
Karim said the US Envoy encouraged him to keep calm after the today’s vote to remove him.
“He [McGurk] called me saying that ‘this is a wrong decision’ and that they know that this decision should not have taken place. They asked us to keep calm,” Karim said of his phone call with McGurk when asked about the meeting between a visiting delegation from the United States, United Kingdom, and United Nations with Kurdish President Masoud Barzani.
The delegation presented an “alternative” in place of the Kurdish referendum that would also include the oil-rich Kirkuk on September 25, the two sides said after the meeting.
The Iraqi parliament voted by a majority to remove Karim
after the local government in the province decided to join the Kurdish referendum, less than two weeks from now.
The Kurdish presidency and the office of the governor have said they do not abide by the vote calling it illegal and in violation of the Iraqi constitution.
Karim described the vote as an “illegal decision.” He explained that the law for the Iraqi provincial election passed in 2008 stipulated that Kirkuk, unlike the rest of the Iraqi provinces, would not come under the authority of the office of the Iraqi Prime Minister. He therefore said that the Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi did not have the right to send his name to the parliament to table a vote of confidence.
Karim said he will keep his post, adding he has received phone calls from Kurdish officials such as President Barzani who offered their support.
He said he has the full backing of his Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, his party’s office in the province, and all Kurdish parties.
The governor said he keeps his position despite the vote.
“We remain in our place, we are doing our work, and we are doing preparation for the referendum.” the defiant governor said.
President Barzani slammed the Iraqi parliament’s Thursday vote as he delivered a speech to a crowd of thousands of people in Zakho who came out in full force to support the Kurdish referendum.
Barzani called Karim’s stance “patriotic,” and the governor said the president is “very supportive” of him and thanked him when they held a phone call after the rally
Kirkuk Now, a media outlet close to the PUK, reported on Thursday that the PUK office in Kirkuk voted to exclude Kirkuk from the Kurdish referendum.
The outlet cited Yasin Izaddin, the PUK’s deputy head in Kirkuk, as saying that they voted to exclude Kirkuk because they do not want to “gamble” with the fate of the province fearing that a clash may take place as the result between the Kurdish Peshmerga and the mainly Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi forces.
Karim denied that the PUK office is against holding the referendum. He said he talked to Kosrat Rasul, the party’s first deputy, and Aso Mamand, the party's head in Kirkuk, and the two, Karim said, reiterated that the vote will go ahead as planned unless a “concrete alternative” offered by the world powers such as the United Nations, United States, and the United Kingdom.
Karim said that the Kirkuk Provincial Council will refuse the vote by the Iraqi parliament in a meeting.
He concluded that the decision by the Iraqi PM, and the Iraqi parliament “further united the Kurds” to be more insistent on the referendum.