Kurdish-Iraqi government talks collapse amid fear of civil war
Talks between the Kurds and Iraq's central government on pulling back troops in disputed areas are collapsing. What does is mean for Prime Minister Maliki?
Talks between Kurdish and central government forces aimed at defusing military tension in northern Iraq have collapsed amid fears that bitter political divisions are again bringing the country to the brink of civil war.Skip to next paragraph
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The talks in Baghdad between Iraqi and Kurdish military commanders brokered by a three-star American general broke down on Thursday, two days after the prime minister announced both sides had agreed on pulling back forces in part of the disputed areas. Officials on Friday said there were no new talks scheduled.
Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani, who has described deployment of Iraqi forces as a plot against the Kurds, accused the Iraqi prime minister of reneging on the agreement and vowed that Kurdish forces would deter Baghdad’s “militarism.”
The collapse of the talks and the high-profile corruption charges connected to a Russian arms deal have added fuel to efforts by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s political opponents to engineer a no-confidence vote. While attacks have declined since sectarian violence tore the country apart several years ago, rampant corruption and political paralysis have made it difficult for the country to move forward.
“We believe this is a deliberate policy by Baghdad to divert attention from the government’s political failures and its deepening crisis, including corruption,” says Barham Salih, former Kurdish prime minister and a senior official in President Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.
Mr. Maliki says a new security operations center overseeing three northern provinces adjacent to the Kurdish region was necessary to address worsening security. The Kurds have seen the move by Iraqi forces to consolidate control in areas disputed by the two sides as a declaration of hostilities.
Gunfire involving Iraqi and Kurdish forces killed a civilian and prompted both Iraqi Army and Kurdish Peshmerga commanders to move more forces into the region.
Despite the rhetoric, neither side appears to be ready or willing to engage in a larger battle. But the same fear that prompted US forces to act as a bridge between the two factions before American troops withdrew from Iraq has prompted worry that the ongoing tension could ignite something that would be difficilt to stop.
Although the troops are gone, the US continues to play a limited role in trying to resolve the conflict.
The prime minister’s office on Tuesday took the unusual step of specifying that an American official, Lt. Gen. Robert Caslan, in charge of the US embassy’s office of security cooperation, was involved in the talks with the Kurds.