Kurds are still key as Iraqi PM considers government reshuffle
By Rudaw 2 hours ago

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The veteran Iraqi Kurdish lawmaker, Ala Talabani, who has been in Baghdad since mid-2000 and seen various governments come and go, believes Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s greatest challengers are still inside his own Shiite coalition: they could effectively make or break his cabinet.

This is why, Talabani says, he would need a Kurdish hand to stabilize his shaky position inside the Shiite landscape.

“Abadi tries his best to avoid confrontations with his Shiite ministers, Ibrahim Ja’afari, Hussein Shahristani, Bayan Solagh and Adil Abulmahdi who are all too powerful for the prime minister to ignore,” Talabani says.

“Why would he open a new front with the Kurds,” she wonders.

Abadi has said he wants to renew his government, reshuffle most of the ministers and choose new ones without the mediation of political parties.

That would apply to the Kurdish share of cabinet positions too. He would not choose party-affiliated Kurds as his ministers, but as he delicately has put it, only “patriot technocrats.”

In doing so, he will secure the support of charismatic Shiite outsider, Muqtada al-Sadr, who has called for “technocracy” and also reduce the Kurdistan region’s influence in his decisions.

“We have been clear on this,” Talabani points out. “If Abadi would appoint Kurdish ministers without our consultation and approval, we might leave the government all together,” she says.

There is, however, not much that speaks for a strong Kurdish participation in Baghdad -- unlike the early periods of the post-Saddam era when the Kurds were essentially the kingmakers in Baghdad.

Iraq’s prime ministers would rise and fall very much depending on their Kurdish support as in the case of Ibrahim Ja’afari and Nouri al-Maliki, who came to power with Kurdish endorsement and left office after clashing with Kurdish leaders.

“It is partly the Shiite mistakes that pushed the Kurds to leave the political scene in Baghdad after the 2010 elections,” said a former Shiite lawmaker who wished for anonymity.

“Kurds had a pivotal (mediation) role in the meddling between not only Shiites and Sunnis but also among the rivaling Shiite leaders, many of whom have had historical relations with Kurds, including Ammar Hakeem and Adil Abdulmahdi,” he said.

Following the inconclusive elections in 2010, Maliki continued as premier, only after a deal was brokered in Erbil.

The Kurdistan Region has made no secret that it seeks further independence from Baghdad, not only in issues related to the energy sector and revenues, but even more importantly, politically -- as the region prepares for a long-anticipated referendum on independence.

But even now, with 58 of the 328 parliament seats, Kurds have considerable influence in Baghdad, as no faction holds the majority of seats.

Kurdish leaders have over the past years mended their relations with the Sunni factions in parliament, including the senior Sunni leaders, Osama Nujaifi and Salih Mutlaq, who have been the outspoken critics of the Shiite-led governments.

“When the current Iraqi cabinet was being formed, the political parties were deciding who would become what in the government,” says Kurdish lawmaker in Baghdad, Khasro Goran. “How can Abadi now try to sideline the parties and expect their support,” he wondered.

This could mean that Kurds could easily reach agreements with the increasingly mistreated Sunni factions and destabilize any Shiite-led government.

Of course, for that to take place, veteran Kurds would need a helping hand from the Shiite secular leaders like Iyad Allawi, while they can always count on Shiite clerics like Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi army in 2007 fought Maliki’s predominantly Shiite government for territory in the holy Iraqi cities of Karbala and Najaf. http://rudaw.net/english/middleeast/iraq/31032016