Discord is spreading through Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), this time because of a recent oil deal between Arbil and Baghdad. Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, a senior figure of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the wife of former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, sent a letter to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Sept. 7 threatening to halt the flow of oil out of Kirkuk. Ahmed criticized a revenue-sharing agreement struck in August between al-Abadi’s administration and the Kurdish government to jointly export 150,000 barrels of oil per day from the disputed Kirkuk region through Turkey, claiming the deal lacks transparency. She added that the accord, which splits oil revenue evenly between Arbil and Baghdad, was crafted without her party’s input.
Ahmed’s ability to follow through with her threat is limited, but her allegations signal the growing strain between the PUK and the Kurdish government’s ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). Since the parties’ political alliance crumbled earlier this year, the KDP has taken steps to marginalize the PUK in the KRG’s decision-making process. In fact, the Kurdish delegation that brokered the recent oil deal was made up primarily of KDP members. The Kurdish Ministry of Natural Resources, moreover, has accused the PUK of illegally selling Kirkuk’s oil to Iran, which has long been an influential partner of the PUK. Ahmed has denied the ministry’s claims that people and companies affiliated with her party have sent 30,000 bpd to Iran to the tune of $30 million.
But a dispute with the KDP, though problematic, is not the PUK’s most pressing concern at the moment. On Sept. 1, the PUK’s secretary-general announced the formation of a decision-making body intended to put an end to the monopoly on authority held by a small cadre in the party. Though the move is widely considered illegitimate within the PUK’s ranks, it reflects the deepening internal divides threatening to tear the party apart. Hidden differences among party members began to emerge in 2012, as Talabani’s health deteriorated, and the contention has worsened ever since.
The intra- and inter-party bickering will only further destabilize the Kurdish government, which is already struggling to overcome mounting tension between the ruling KDP and the Gorran movement (Iraqi Kurdistan’s largest opposition party). Ahmed’s latest statement will make it even more difficult for Iraqi Kurdistan’s political parties to work together to solve the financial and security problems piling up against them.
is republished with permission of Stratfor.”
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