Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat- The unprecedented speech that Adnan al-Mufti, the speaker of the Kurdistan National Assembly (Parliament), delivered 8 September during the inaugural meeting of the Parliament’s second session on arms deals that Baghdad wishes to conclude has implicitly shown that a crisis of confidence exists between the Kurdistan region and the central government. Al-Mufti called on the United States in particular and the arms-producing major powers in general not to sell arms to Iraq unless conditions and specific restrictions are attached to such deals prohibiting the use of these arms against the Kurds in the future.
Al-Dabbagh, the official spokesman of the Iraqi government, abstained from responding to the Kurdish statements and their objection to an arms deal that the Iraqi government wishes to conclude with the United States. He said: “The government does not respond to everything that others think”.
In a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, Al-Dabbagh affirmed, “All we can say in this regard is that Iraq is a sovereign state. The subject of arming, training, and building the capabilities of the army is one of the rights of the federal government. At the same time, however, we say that the present army will never be like the previous army that had turned into a too for suppression of the people and even the new Iraqi constitution”. He added: “There is a clear text that says that the army will not become involved in any internal events to suppress domestic riots. This will be the responsibility of the police force whereas the task of the army is to defend the unity of Iraqi soil. Certainly, there are specific tasks pertaining to the Iraqi army that were clarified in the constitution since the army is the bastion of Iraq that it is defending”.
Regarding the details of the arms deal, Al-Dabbagh said, “An Iraqi request was submitted to the United States to supply Iraq with 36 F-16 airplanes only. Thus, these objections that are coming from within the country or from outside or that can be described as observations on the deal are out of order. As a sovereign state with an elected government, Iraq has the right to strengthen its military capabilities and is interested in training and equipping its army”.
Regarding claims that it is in the interest of some regional forces to keep Iraq’s military capabilities below the level that they enjoyed in the past, Al-Dabbagh said: “We do not look at intentions and we do not judge anyone based on intentions. Nor do we pay attention to such comments and efforts. However, we affirm once again that Iraq will not have an army similar to the former army. In other words, it will not be an army for aggression. It will be an army to defend the people of Iraq and their interests”. In his turn, Adnan al-Mufti made a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat regarding his opening speech in the Kurdish Parliament the day before yesterday. He said: “During the holiday of the Kurdistan Parliament, important matters were discussed that have a direct impact on the people of Kurdistan. These matters need to be pondered and objectively and accurately analyzed so that frank stands could be taken on them. This is particularly true since some of these events amount to an alarm bell regarding our people’s rights that are guaranteed in Iraq’s permanent constitution. Furthermore, they events constitute a danger to the whole democratic process in federal Iraq and to the spirit of joint peaceful co-existence based on concord. Democracy in Iraq cannot continue without reference to the constitution and the basis of concord”.
Al-Mufti went on to say: “Unfortunately, there are those that are trying hard to restore the old system of government in Iraq. Resorting to plotting and to closed meetings in dark rooms inside and outside Iraq, they are trying to undermine the Kurdish people’s rights to freedom and democracy and to strengthen the power of the central authority in Baghdad even this is done along the lines of the former totalitarian and dictatorial approach that was rejected by the Iraqi people by voting on the permanent Iraqi constitution”.
Regarding the crisis in Khanaqin – that is disputed between the Iraqi army and the Peshmerga forces of Kurdistan – Al-Mufti said: “It is very obvious that in the past we repeatedly demonstrated our support for the activities of the Iraqi army that aim at establishing security and imposing the rule of law whether that is in Basra or Baghdad or Diyali or Al-Anbar. The army was dispatched to these regions because they were hotbeds and turbulent regions that had turned into pockets of terrorism. However, there is a question related to the township of Khanaqin and the other regions that had been taken away from the Kurdistan district and that enjoy secure and stable conditions and where terrorism is absent. The question is under what pretext does the federal government decide -unilaterally and without prior coordination or consultation with Kurdistan – to dispatch these large army numbers to Khanaqin and other regions that had been taken away from Kurdistan?”
Al-Mufti went on to say: “It is true that Iraq is a federal state and that the federal army has the right to enter any part of the country. However, this should not be done before finding a solution to the political problems in Iraq and to the issue of the regions that were taken from Kurdistan. This should be done by implementing Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution and forming Iraqi institutions in a legal manner. Even if this takes place, the deployment and dispatch of military units require prior coordination and consultation with the government of Kurdistan”.
Al-Mufti continued: “If, God forbid, the district of Kurdistan is subjected to an external or terrorist aggression, we will ask for military support from the central authority. However, we believe that the approach and the mechanism taken by the Iraqi government recently were illegal and not normal”. Al-Mufti explained that in federal systems and regimes in the world, the army has no right to enter any district or city except after clarifying the reasons and after coordinating with the president and the prime minister”. Al-Mufti went on to say: “The towns of Khanaqin and Kirkuk and the other parts of Kurdistan that had been appropriated have their own domestic forces that are entrusted with imposing the law and establishing security and stability. These forces have satisfactorily succeeded in performing their duties. Thus, the worry that our people of Kurdistan have stems from fears that the practices of the former Iraqi army – the army of Al-Anfal, the army of chemical shelling, and the army of destruction and devastation of Kurdistan -would be repeated”.