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Al-Maliki: Besieging Kurdistan and al-Anbar | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Besieging Kurdistan and al-Anbar

Besieging Kurdistan and al-Anbar

Besieging Kurdistan and al-Anbar

Anybody who believes the story about this “high-level intelligence” is truly ignorant about the nature of geopolitics. This story was made public by an anonymous government source to justify the closure of Iraq’s border crossing with Jordan and the subsequent impact this has had on the residents of al-Anbar.

Had the al-Maliki government enjoyed any credibility, we would not have doubted its reasons for closing this vital crossing into Jordan, particularly as terrorism remains a painful reality that threatens Iraq as a whole. However the al-Maliki government has taken the decision to punish the people of al-Anbar, the province that is boiling with anger against him and leading the popular opposition movement in Iraq. Since the livelihood of a large number of al-Anbar residents is based on trade to and from Jordan, and because this border crossing connects this region with the outside world, its sudden closure – coinciding with the al-Anbar uprising – is nothing more than a personal political decision to besiege the province and collectively punish its inhabitants in order to crush the opposition through exclusion and economic blockade.

In the past, al-Maliki’s government would send aid to Bashar al-Assad, in addition to turning a blind eye to the tremendous support being provided by others, whilst vigilantly guarding the border region against any smuggling operations that favoured the Syrian rebels. However after the Abu Kamal border crossing between Iraq and Syria was seized by the rebels last June, the government of Baghdad changed its policy and completely blocked any movement across the border with Syria. Al-Anbar is the largest Iraqi province and it shares a 500 km border with Syria; this clarifies the problem represented by al-Anbar, as well as its importance.

Al-Maliki has blocked the way, building a high wall between Syria and Iraq, whilst his forces also relentlessly pursue anybody who even thinks of crossing. By closing this strategic passage, al-Maliki has harmed the interests of this province and impoverished the Iraqi people living there, not to mention the Syrian on the other side. To draw a contrast, Turkey has been allowing international aid to reach the Syrians through its borders, as well as allowing refugees and others to cross and leave Syria, without changing its position depending on which party – al-Assad or the rebels – is in control of the border crossings. The al-Maliki government closed the border crossings and marginalized this region, with the exception of forces that are indeed pursuing the Syrian refugees seeking to escape the crimes of the al-Assad regime.

Al-Maliki pursued precisely the same approach with Kurdistan, sending troops to Nasiriyah and Mosul last summer under the pretext of guarding the borders with Syria, when in reality he was seeking to open a passageway to send aid to the al-Assad regime. The Kurds refused to comply with this and he is now trying to punish them just as he is the residents of al-Anbar. Al-Maliki wants to prevent the Kurds from producing their own oil, even announcing a security and military state of alert and threatening to besiege the Kurdish region. The relationship between al-Maliki and the Kurdistan government has reached its lowest ebb despite the fact that the Kurds were once among his strongest supporters and it was only thanks to the votes of Kurdish MPs that he was able to secure the post of prime minister.

The tactic of exclusion and besiegement being practiced by the Baghdad government is part of a broader policy that aims to increase al-Maliki’s powers and eliminate his opponents, even though this opposition is legitimate. This opposition is made up of members of rival parties, as well as former al-Maliki allies who have turned against the Iraqi prime minister following disputes over interests and powers.

Al-Maliki is attempting to play a game that is beyond his capabilities, kicking out the state’s most senior figures in order to take control of all three branches of power. He wants to banish or imprison his rivals, including senior politicians, and is today imposing an economic blockade on the people of al-Anbar by closing the border with Jordan as well as blocking movement across the Syrian border crossing, which is no longer under the al-Assad regime’s control. He has completed his grand war by declaring that Kurdistan is in rebellion and threatening to sue the oil companies operating in the region. He has placed his troops on a state of high alert along the region’s borders, whilst the last time that Iraqi troops were stationed here was at the command of Saddam Hussein in the late 1980s!