Disputed Territories and Region Formation: A New Low in the Iraqi Constitutional Debate
Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 15 December 2011 13:01
We already have a pretty confused federalism debate in Iraq after the recent surge of interest in federalism among some Sunni local politicians. Both opponents and proponents of new federal regions are making up their own rules and are paying scant attention to the laws on the books.
Enter the concept of “disputed territories”. With emerging federalism projects in Diyala and longstanding Kurdish claims to portions of that governorate – notably Khanaqin – ever more complex situations seem to come on the agenda in Iraq. The Kurds now claim they have supported the federalism request in the governorate council on the provision that Khanaqin will be kept separate and will be annexed to the Kurdistan Regional Government:
وقال عضو الكتلة دلير حسن في حديث لـ”السومرية نيوز”، إن “أعضاء كتلة التحالف الكردستاني وقعوا على الطلب الرسمي بإقامة إقليم إداري واقتصادي في ديالى، على أن تكون المناطق المتنازع عليها وخاصة قضاء خانقين بنواحيه الأربع خارج الإقليم
But can they do that? Absolutely not. Not as part of a federalisation project as such. It is absolutely critical to appreciate that, constitutionally and legally speaking, region formation and disputed territories are entirely separate concepts in Iraq. There is no relationship between them whatsoever and an attempt to intertwine the two concepts – as seen in the latest Diayla move – is bound to come up against insurmountable judicial problems.
This all goes back to the fact that Iraq does not have any post-2003 framework for tackling changes to governorate boundaries other than the vague provisions that relate to “disputed territories” under article 140 of the constitution. Those provisions, in turn, are interpreted to mean “referendums” on the final status of contested areas – but as long as there is no general progress towards article 140 settlement, region formation must remain a separate theme.
If a referendum for the establishment of a federal region in Diyala is called for (as it should be, legally speaking, regardless of Shiite-led counter-demonstrations of some size), inhabitants of Khanaqin – just like all the other citizens of Diyala – will have to vote on whether Diyala (including Khanaqin) should become a single federal region or remain as an ordinary governorate as per today. No other option can or will be on the table.
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