Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Article 140 Returns to the Iraqi Political Agenda

Posted by Reidar Visser on Wednesday, 30 June 2010 1:34

Amid an increasing number of meetings between State of Law and Iraqiyya, it is interesting that there is increasing debate about the stance of the two sides on an issue that could potentially unite them: Article 140 of the constitution relating to so-called “disputed territories”, including most importantly Kirkuk.

Some of this discussion has reflected continued disappointment among Iraqi nationalists about what was perceived as a “soft” (i.e. pro-Kurdish) stance by the State of Law alliance (SLA) headed by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki during the debate on the election law last autumn, when their failure to argue for more robust measures against perceived Kurdish heavy-handedness in controlling the elections in Kirkuk was seen as a reversion to the “old politics” of 2005-2007 with Shiites and Kurds united in an ethno-sectarian alliance against Sunnis. However, there are now also growing signs of another – and opposite – trend within State of Law: Attempts to reassure voters that there will be no “sell-out” as far as Kirkuk is concerned, which is pretty much what many Iraqiyya politicians also demand.

One example of this is Sadiq al-Kaabi of State of Law, who recently told reporters that SLA would rather be in the opposition than do a bargain on 140. Kaabi, who currently has a leading position at the new Najaf airport, has an interesting background: Like many in Daawa, he spent long years in exile, but instead of staying in Iran, he completed his education in Cairo and Beirut, thus clearly preferring the environment of the Arab world. In the 1990s he lived in Syria (also like Nuri al-Maliki).

There is nothing new in this. After all, divisions within the old all-Shiite alliance precisely on issues like 140 and Kirkuk were instrumental in bringing about its demise, with Fadila and Sadrists joining Iraqiyya and Hiwar in the 22 July front, and with Maliki adopting many items on the 22 July agenda when he eventually chose to challenge the more pro-Kurdish ISCI in the January 2009 local elections. But it is interesting that these issues should come to the forefront again at this particular time, after de-Baathification had threatened to kill any prospects of the kind of inter-sectarian alliances based on Iraqi nationalism that were seen in 2008 and 2009.

26 Responses to “Article 140 Returns to the Iraqi Political Agenda”

  1. Ali W said

    Reidar I beginning to get more hopeful of a break through between INM and SLA, even though a while ago I doubted your comments about its possibility.

    The insistence of the Kurds that Kirkuk is a part of any deal make either with SLA/INA or INM couples with the Sadrist refusal to let Maliki become the next PM, could force them together.

    There is talk about INM offering the presidency to Maliki yesterday, this would then make him the head of state, which could massage his ego.

  2. Jason said

    Interesting. Omar at ITM was posting that the rumor was Allawi would get the presidency and that Maliki would get PM. Sounds like they still haven’t worked it out.

  3. Jason said

    I understand that you don’t think much of this metric, Reidar, but it would be a strange coincidence that after about two weeks with no arrests, there is talk of an INM/SLA deal, and the Maliki govt suddenly rounds up 21 (presumably Sadrists) in Basra today.

  4. Salah said

    reflected continued disappointment among Iraqi nationalists
    Iraqi nationalist were more accepting the idea of federal solution for the Kurds, most Iraqis were very in favour of that solution.

    What turned things ugly in fact there were many things, starting with Iran war which part of Kurds were use it for their befits/strength also been disloyal to their country to western alliance for the Kurd oppositions like Barazani / Talabani made front to destabilized the central government. This matter was long time set from 1950 thought 1991. At that time the No-Fly-Zones introduced the start of full backing of Kurds separation from Iraq by the west.

    divisions within the old all-Shiite alliance precisely on issues like 140 and Kirkuk were instrumental in bringing about its demise,

    What make this aliens more weak been unorganised interested in their internal fighting for power seeking/corruptions with loyalty problem as very obvious for the last 7 years we seeing Iraqis not interested much in their claims. Their claims before the invasion of Iraq and occupations were far from reality these days people who support them either from very illiterate poor areas to those who live on their some handed money to survive in new Iraq.

    Let read these words from the mouth of this very interesting figure who played very “critical” post from 2003 with CPA who lost his face after that even with his old friend what he is saying about what he telling about the governments that Iraq had after CPA

    موفق الربيعي (أ.ف.ب)
    معد فياض

    اعترف موفق الربيعي، المستشار السابق للأمن الوطني العراقي، والقيادي في الائتلاف الوطني الذي يتزعمه عمار الحكيم رئيس المجلس الأعلى الإسلامي، بأن تحالفهم مع ائتلاف دولة القانون، بزعامة نوري المالكي، رئيس الحكومة المنتهية ولايتها «دخل في نفق مسدود ومظلم».

    وفي حوار مطول أجرته «الشرق الأوسط» مع الربيعي، شخص المسؤول الحكومي السابق أسباب فشل أداء الحكومة، وقال «لقد وظفنا في الحكومة حرامية وجهلة وأميين».

  5. JWing said

    wishful thinking if Kirkuk is what’s going to unite State of Law and the National Movement. Maliki has a suicidal attachment to the Shiite parties even though he should read the writing on the wall that SIIC & Sadrists are never going to back him. Anyway, the dragged out negotiations helps Maliki because he can stay in power for as long as they go on.

    SLA talk about Kirkuk has also not affected relations with the Kurds. They said that these are individual opinions, and not those of the list. They voiced much more concern about the National Movement’s stance towards the issue.

  6. Reidar Visser said

    Joel, I think the influence of the Kirkuk issue on the 22 July front (and the indebtedness of Maliki to the latter for his nationalist turn in 2008-2009) is undeniable. I mean, the 22 July name is there for a reason, i.e. the 22 July 2008 vote on the provincial election law which attemped to enforce special arrangements for Kirkuk.

    Also, it is worth noting the growing unease among the Kurds regarding the Iraqiyya-State of Law meetings, whose significance they are now trying to play down in a rather strained fashion.

  7. Wladimir said

    How influential is Sadiq al-Kaabi of State of Law? Because Iraqi politicians make a lot of statements. In reality they do something else.

  8. Reidar Visser said

    He was the fourth SLA winner in Najaf, some 12,000 personal votes. At any rate, his views are not exceptional within the SLA; I just chose him as an example. Of course, figures like Abbas al-Bayati, Abd al-Hadi al-Hassani and Sadiq al-Rikabi have also made statements going in this direction previously.

  9. Kermanshahi said

    “Iraqi nationalist were more accepting the idea of federal solution for the Kurds, most Iraqis were very in favour of that solution.”

    No, your friend Saddam and his chronies were never in favour of a federal solution for the Kurds, that’s why he double-crossed them on Kerkuk, which resulted in the second Kurdish-Iraqi War.

    “What turned things ugly in fact there were many things, starting with Iran war which part of Kurds were use it for their befits/strength also been disloyal to their country to western alliance for the Kurd oppositions like Barazani / Talabani made front to destabilized the central government. This matter was long time set from 1950 thought 1991. At that time the No-Fly-Zones introduced the start of full backing of Kurds separation from Iraq by the west.”

    So first they were forced into an Arab nation against their will by use of military force, than forced to live under an opressive regime and you even expect them to have loyalty for this country?

  10. Reidar Visser said

    Kirkuk in principle has nothing to do with the issue of federalism for the Kurdistan Region. There is no way one can deny that Iraq was always far ahead of its neighbours in terms of preparedness to conceptually embrace the idea of Kurdish autnonomy and indeed Kurdish identity, which I think is the point Salah may be referring to.

    Kirkuk is a separate issue, which mostly has to do with displacement issues at the level of families. As discussed in many threads earlier (and not to be reopened here), the Kurdish demand for Kirkuk (the town) is a late-twentieth century invention with scant basis in history.

  11. observer said

    I am curious as to how Iran views the rights of the Kurds in Iran to have self governance and self determination. How do you explain the hanging of Kurdish activists some 4 weeks ago? Are they terrorists? or are they activists for the rights of the Kurds?

    Does Iran allow for the potential of the Kurds in iran joining their brethren in Iraq, or at least give them the same level of independence they currently enjoy in Iraq?

    Thanks in advance for enlightening me as I have little access of knowledge of inter-iranian politics.

  12. Jason said,0,2030541.story

    “Mahdi Army resurfacing.” I wonder if this is being discussed in the negotiations to form a new govt and what role it might play.

  13. Kermanshahi said

    Kerkuk is the cultural heart of Kurdistan and the holy city of the Kurdish people, what Arabs want to do is give only some parts of Kurdistan to the Kurds and keep Kerkuk because of it’s oil. As you have said in many threads, during the Turkish occupation of Kerkuk and South Kurdistan, many Turkish settlers settled in the city, the occupiers stayed but are no longer a majority, not in the city or the region, but now there is a new occupier. Now it’s true that thousands of years ago it was actually the Assyrians who built the city, but by the same standards 2000 years ago there was not a single Arab in Iraq, so if Kerkuk doesn’t belong to the Kurds because milenia ago it was populated by others, than only Saudi Arabia belongs to the Arabs.

    Kurds were forced into Iraq, they don’t want it, they don’t like it, when a referendum was held 98.8% of them said they prefer independence over autonomy (which regarding Iraq’s “tolerant” history towards the Kurds – it was “far ahead of it’s neighbours”… in how many Kurds they killed), but OK there can be a compromise because Arabs so badly demand Kurdistan remain a part of their nation, but only under certain conditions. Kerkuk is the nr.1 priority, Kurds have gone to war for it in the past and will definetly go to war for it in the future if the Kurds of Kerkuk are not given teh freedom to rule themselfes which the rest of Iraq’s Kurds do have.

    The deal Iraq’s Arab leaders such as al-Hakim made with the Kurds in 2005, is what brought peace and reconciliation between the Kurds and the Arabs who have been at war since 1961. The attempt to break this deal and create an anti-Kurdish, Arab nationalist, racist government by a number of ex-Ba’athists and al-Maliki will reverse all this progress and bring Kurdish-Arab relations back to how they were under Saddam, only this time the Iraqi Army doesn’t have a milion men, 5000 tanks and 500 planes equipped with chemical gas, they got a small army without many heavy weapons or any combat aircraft which is plagued by infighting, militia and insurgents. Now I’m sure people like Saleh al-Mutlaq, Atheel al-Nujayfi and ofcourse Sadettin Ergeç would love to see this happen (and I have no doubt that the Nujayfi brothers would have another al-Anfal in Ninawa if they could) and very unfortunetly the Iraqi Arabs have chosen to follow such extremists. But do you really think this is the best thing for Iraq? It’s not gonna be good for Arabs or Kurds but sadly the Arab people have elected leaders who want to impose their will on the Kurds.

  14. Reidar Visser said

    Kermanshahi, just to rephrase my point, I think you would benefit from appreciating the distinction many Iraqis see between full Kurdish autonomy on the one hand – which even most nationalists are happy to implement – and Kurdish designs on Kirkuk on the other, which is something which was not really on the agenda before Barzani Sr. began pressing the issue in the 1960s, and which is seen as an extreme demand. If the Kurds abandoned their demands on Kirkuk they would be able to consolidate their autonomy in the current KRG area (and would probably be able to expand into certain rural areas without many objections as well).

    You know full well how few votes Hakim got in the latest election, and to base Kurdish ambitions on a long-term alliance with ISCI is simply not viable, numerically speaking.

  15. observer said

    THank you for the history lesson, but trust me when I say I know my history better than most and in fact your account is no very accurate. For example – the reference to 2005 when in fact the relationship between Hakim’s and the Kurds go back to Qasim’s time when Muhsin Hakim issued a fetwa prohibiting She3a from killing Kurds). Federalism was a position Iraqi opposition in mass took as a guiding principal back when they met in Salahdin in 1992. Further, the “war” of the Kurds is much earlier than 1961. Please check history books written by Kurdish writers, if you care to opine on things Iraqi.

    I would affirm Rieder’s interpretation of the Kirkuk issue and the stance of Arabs and Kurds and Turkmen. The issue, everybody understands, is oil and money – nothing sacrosanct about Kirkuk to any of the entities… There are Iraqi solutions to this problem that are being discussed at the highest levels that will make everybody, including the Turks, happy when the time comes.

    By the way, I do note that you do not state much on the issue of the Kurds in Iran. Furthermore, when you bring the fact that the “Kurds” were forced on Iraq – does that also mean that the Arabs of khozistan were forced onto Iran?

  16. Al Capone said

    Kermanshahi, just a correction on Kirkuk’s History, it wasnt built by the Assyrians 2000 years ago, it was built by the Gutians (one of the Kurds ancestors) some 4500 years ago, however, 2000 years ago the assyrians took control of the city for a while.

  17. Salah said

    No, your friend Saddam

    Kermanshahi, I am NOT friend of SADDAM.

    As Iraqi born and lived in Iraq I doubt that NOT Iraqis like you more knowledgably and familiar with Iraq and Iraqis how they thinking.

  18. Salah said

    than forced to live under an opressive regime
    No wounder now there is a nation and Kurds living under an oppressive regime like Iranian Mullah Regime, isn’t?

    The bombing going for weeks now in the border Kurdish area North West Iran between Iraq and Iran bombing villages and house made Kurds evacuated fleeing the Iranian bombing

  19. JWing said


    I think you have always over emphasized the role of the July 22 movement on Maliki. What made him a nationalist figure in the minds of the public was his crackdown on the Mahdi Army, followed by his failed attempt at pacifying Mosul, and then his confrontation with the Kurds in Diyala and Ninewa. Nothing he did before or after in parliament or otherwise gave him the same stature, so unless the Sadrists knowingly sacrificed themselves to Maliki to help change his image, than I would say that the July 22 movement was secondary or even third to Maliki’s move towards nationalism.

  20. Reidar Visser said

    Joel, I don’t think anyone disputes the factors you mention as the more immediate reasons for Maliki’s growing stature as a nationalist in the public perception. A different issue are the deeper causes for why he rediscovered nationalism, and this is where I think 22 July comes into play. Remember for example that those parties put Kirkuk on the agenda already in January 2008 and had it not been for their action in parliament in February on the provincial powers law there would have been no local elections in January 2009. All of this predated the Basra security operation.

    One possible reason behind the lack of attention to the 22 July front could perhaps simply be that it is almost never mentioned in the Western press.

  21. Ali W said

    Sorry off topic a bit, Reidar Is Ibrahim Bahruloom apart of th “NA”

    Kermanshahi, I’m a friend to the Kurdish nation and people, I have nothing but respect for them and their aspirations. Infact my family moved to Erbil recently and bought a house in the “Italian Village”.

    However you have to understand that the Kurdish parties are playing a negative role in iraqi politics when it comes to other issues beside their own interest. They push for a weaker central government that wont even be able to deal with governantes in the south, for a massive chunk of the Iraqi budget, whilst the south remians much poorer and less developed by the kurdish regions. Iraq now has a budget deficit problem, but what do the kurds ask for??? More money and the persherga to have their salaries paid for by Bgahdad even though they wont even have control over them.

    This is a joke, as for Kirkuk, beleive me its only holy becuase it has a lot of oil, why else would it be holy, what shrine that resides in that city has so much significance to the Kurds? What is the history in that city that makes you call it the Quds of the Kurds?? It has been in Turkish hands the last 500 hundred years.

    The Kurds want Kirkuk so oneday they can have independence, without Kirkuk they would not be able to fulfill that dream.

  22. Reidar Visser said

    Ali, Yes, Bahr al-Ulum is from INA to the best of my knowledge. I think they have a party called Mustaqbal (future) something if I remember correctly. They were in and out of the old UIA; I think it is essentially the party vehicle of the Bahr al-Ulum family. They may have like one or possibly two deputies in parliament…

    I think the emergence of the idea of a Bahr al-Ulum “compromise” premier candidate highlights all the problems with the Hakim approach (“roundtable”) which is apparently aimed at finding someone so weak and unobjectionable that he will let all the others scavenge on the resources of the state.

  23. Anonymous said

    Rediar, there are a lot of talk about Ibrahim Bahruloom in London. Many talk about the houses that they purchased in Swiss Cottage after he became oil minister in 2004, however one cannot be so sure.

    If he was ever to become the PM, it would be the biggest disaster ever. Why should the Iraqi people have a PM with hardly any support internally.

  24. bb said

    The reports of the resurgence of the Mahdhi army in Baghdad is a timely reminder of what will occur if the Sadrists get their way and depose Maliki/SOL.

    In every area of Iraq that the Sadrists controlled before Maliki brought them under control they imposed sharia law and gang rule.

    The mahdhis are and have always been acting as an instrument of current regime in Iran.

    Of all the sectarian parties in Iraq, they must be the most sectarian and the most dangerous: that is, unless one is a supporter of sharia law, Qom-style?

  25. Salah said

    observer said
    By the way, I do note that you do not state much on the issue of the Kurds in Iran. Furthermore, when you bring the fact that the “Kurds” were forced on Iraq – does that also mean that the Arabs of khozistan were forced onto Iran?

    Some like to speak in two tongs like our unfactual/self servicing writer here Mullah’s friend Kirmashani.

    This matter well known for long times with different regimes in Iran imposing and enforcing Persians on indigenous Arab in Al-Ahwaz in same as the iraqi tyrant’s manner with the Iraqi Kurds.

    I did not meantion or speak about tyrant here. If you re-read my comment well those Iraqis/nationalists I mentioned them who were in favour of a federal solution for the Kurds, “tyrant and his chronies” were a minority as we speak, let speaks more specific (I don’t like to specks in this way but I forced to it) , part of them were Iraqi Shiites as “oppressed” majority under tyrant regime, part of Sunni who were not from tyrant’s chronies, these two made a big block meantioned here, so don’t be stupid by twisting facts. next time don’t try putting your words in my mouth next time.

    People: The Arabistanis are a Semetic Arab people made up of thirty tribal groups that are ethnically and culturally related to the Arab peoples to the west but are not closely related to Iran’s majority Aryan population. The Arabistanis, who speak an Arabic dialect with a marked Farsi (Iranian admixture), are mostly Shia Muslims, adhering to the branch of Islam predominant in Iran, with a Sunni Muslim minority concentrated in the coastal areas. …
    The centralization of government, under the Pahlevi dynasty [1925], included the official elimination of the privileges of the Iranian state’s numerous ethnic and religious minorities. In 1928 the inhabitants of Arabistan, again rechristened Khuzestan, came under intense pressure to assimilate, with ethnic clothing outlawed, Arabic language publications banned, and all schools order to teach only in Farsi, Iran’s official language.

    UNHCR, 29 June 2000

    the first three decades of the twentieth century the integration of Iran’s tribal border province Khuzistan received its impetus only through the on-going negotiations and deliberations about the defense of its southwestern boundary, Iran’s border with Ottoman Iraq – especially, since the idea of the nation, mellat, and constitutionalism were still experimental realms which provided a potential matrix for perception and self-identification.

    The analysis will show that the attempt to cultivate a sense of national belonging under the authority of the Qajar king and constitutional law failed to reduce local tribal particularism within Khuzistan. However, the central state used the issue of the southwestern border as a means to successfully exert control and influence over the peripheral territory and its local communities. The new educational and political concept of Reza Pahlavi’s early reign also failed to achieve a harmonious cultural-political balance between Iran’s central authority and the provincial particularism of Arab tribal culture.

    The Iranian Nation-State and Assertions of Khuzistan’s Geopolitical,
    By Anja Manthey Yale University

    Does Iran allow for the potential of the Kurds in Iran joining their brethren in Iraq, or at least give them the same level of independence they currently enjoy in Iraq?

    Its well known fact the Kurdish region spared along Syria Iraq,Turkey and Iran, till the Iraq –Iran warIraqi Kurds were most better off their brethren in other neighbouring countries. Were they speaks freely their language with schools teaching in Kurdish, many book published in Kurdish while in Turkey were speaking Kurdish will face death penalty or in Syria were kurdas have no right to have an ID card/passport, as for Iran its not better off both Syria or turkey.

    The deal Iraq’s Arab leaders such as al-Hakim

    There is strong believing between Iraqis this man were Iranian’s decedent not an Arab. Go read his family tree well before put this incorrect statement.

  26. Ali MM said

    Anonymous, Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum was independently wealthy before becoming Oil Minister, and it is worthless casting aspersions on the basis of flimsy evidence. In fact, he can be remembered as one of the few competent ministers in the CPA//Jaafari governments.

    I don’t know where you got the idea he is to become PM???

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