Erbil and Baghdad need to pave way for new leaders and new perspectives: researcher

<p style="text-align: left;">A researcher on the Iraqi issues, Dr. Mohammad al-Waeli, believes that Erbil and Baghdad should pave the way for new leaders and new perspectives independent of existing and established institutions.

Many developments have taken place in Iraq in recent months, including the election of Mustafa al-Kadhimi as the new caretaker Prime Minister of the country, the start of a new round of strategic talks between the United States and Iraq, and the increase in Turkish attacks on Kurdistan under the pretext of the presence of the Kurdistan Workers&rsquo; Party (PKK) forces in the Kurdish autonomous region in the north of Iraq, French President Emmanuel Macron&rsquo;s visit to Baghdad and his meetings with Iraqi and Kurdish leaders in the Iraqi capital.

To shed light on these developments, KurdPress conducted an interview with Dr. Mohammad Al-Waeli, a researcher on Iraqi issues.

The researcher attributed Macron's meeting with Kurdish leaders in Baghdad, not Erbil, to France's message to the Kurds. He also stressed the importance of paying attention to new leaders in Iraq, regardless of institutionalized views.

What follow are his full answers to KurdPress News Agency questions;

How do you assess new strategic negotiations between Baghdad and Washington? What role Kurds play in the talks?

It is too early to give an accurate assessment of how much progress is being made in negotiations with the U.S..

Although the recent visit of Prime Minister Kadhimi to the U.S. was seen as an essential milestone in the negotiations and was which was welcomed in U.S. media and amongst U.S. analysts, it came nevertheless at a time shortly before the elections. Therefore any progress made depends significantly whether Trump will be reelected or whether Biden takes over.

One promising development was that the U.S. wanted to reduce the number of troops in the country. However, many talks have been going on about the reduction of U.S. combat troops early on and hence, that was more or less expected to happen regardless of the negotiations.

As for the Kurdish role, given that they are part of Iraq, any solution needs to consider their views, and Erbil must have a unified view with Baghdad in regards to the U.S. presence in Iraq for the negotiations to work.

Emmanuel Macron, unlike former French President Francois Hollande, talked to Kurdish leaders in Baghdad, not in Erbil; do you think that this has a specific message for the Iraqi Kurds? What can Macron do for Baghdad and Erbil, especially about Turkey's attacks in Northern Iraq?

There was a clear message to the Kurdish officials in Erbil, especially that French authorities specifically mentioned they would meet Kurdish leaders in Baghdad before Macron's visit. The message is that France, unlike other countries, wants to deal with Kurdish officials through Baghdad and emphasizes a unified Iraq, notwithstanding the high level of autonomy the Kurds within Iraq.

Macron could try to pressure Turkey on stopping its attacks in northern Iraq. However, reality points out that these efforts will end up being fruitless. Turkey has developed an aggressive vision in the Middle East and North Africa region which justifies a military presence in the major conflict zones in the region, like Syria, Libya, and northern Iraq. It has involved itself intensely in these conflicts, and it is difficult for any relevant player to negotiate with Turkey. Any change in Turkey's stance would require a unified position from Europe against it, something that is not available at the moment, which Turkey understands and takes advantage off.

Do you think that Mustafa Al Kadhimi can make a good deal or, a win-win agreement, with the Kurds over oil and disputed areas as well as other issues?

There is always hope that a final solution is reached between Erbil and Baghdad. However, most agreements have been temporary and on a year-by-year basis. The seasons for negotiations often coincide when it is time to draft the budget law. All non-budget related issue tend to be postponed.

What encourages both sides to do so especially this year is that Kadhimi's government is a temporary one, and the power centres in Baghdad and Erbil are not motivated enough to tackle the significant issues at hand only for the government, and with it, their options, to change. This attitude is also further enabled by the fact that the country is going through many crises, like the economic crisis, COVID-19, and the various political and security crises that give the Kurdish issue a lower urgency, without that making it less critical.

We know that a new generation of Iraqi Kurdish leader is dealing with Baghdad and outside the country. They are Jalal Talabani and Masoud Barzani's successors. How do you see them?

Indeed, there seems to be a generational shift in the political leadership in the KRI. This shift is especially visible with PUK's leadership which witnessed apparent changes after the death of Jalal Talabani and the Kirkuk crisis in 2017.

However, as fresh as the narrative sometimes seems, realistically speaking, not much change should be expected. The 'old system' from which these younger leaders came from will still dictate much of the decision these leaders make, especially if they are not well-established enough in their parties, and assuming in the first place that these leaders are interested in change in the first place.

For instance, Masoud Barazani still is the number one man in the PKD, and a lot of the 'old guard' are still influential in the PUK.

What the KRI, as well as Baghdad, needs is to open up to fresh leadership with a fresh vision from outside the establishment and a considerable amount of time and efforts for changes to take place and have the desired impact.

Reporter&rsquo;s code: 50101

News Code 128561

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