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Old 11-09-2008   #7
Jedburgh
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ICG, 28 Oct 08: Oil for Soil: Toward a Grand Bargain on Iraq and the Kurds
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......Difficult negotiations over a provincial elections law in July-September 2008 were only the latest indication of the centrality of the Kirkuk question. A minority in Iraq, the Kurds have deployed all available legal and institutional mechanisms to facilitate their quest for Kirkuk. Still, they have failed to overcome the odds. The result has been a growing political standoff that is immediately destabilising – witness developments in and around Khanaqin in August-September – and, perhaps even more dangerously, challenges the foundations of the post-2003 order. The territorial dispute stems from a deeper Arab-Kurdish conflict that has its origins in the state’s creation almost a century ago and has yet to be settled, whether through accommodation or by force. At its core it is a struggle between rival nationalisms with conflicting territorial claims to border areas, which the two groups claim based on historical demographic presence rather than on established boundaries, which never existed. Today, the goal should be a negotiated, consensus-based accommodation enshrined in the constitution, ratified in a referendum and guaranteed by the international community.

Deadlocked negotiations over the hydrocarbons and related laws, the architecture of federalism and the constitution review, together with growing tensions in disputed territories such as Khanaqin, suggest that these negotiations ought to shift from their focus on single issues to a grand bargain. A comprehensive approach will demand painful compromises from key stakeholders – principally Arabs and Kurds – who will be unable to provide their constituencies all they had promised them. It also will require overcoming deeply entrenched fears and mistrust.....
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