Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Disputed Territory in Iraq: Talabani Tries to Create Another Article 140

Posted by Reidar Visser on Tuesday, 28 February 2012 18:28

For some time, Iraqi politicians have been discussing a bill proposed by President Jalal Talabani, of the Kurdistan Alliance, on the subject of administrative changes to boundaries of governorates that were altered by the Baath regime.

In principle, this discussion has been kept separate from the bigger question of article 140 of the Iraqi constitution on disputed territories. Some politicians have presented the bill as a preparatory step towards the implementation of article 140. Others, including Prime Minister Nuri a-Maliki, have cited the Talabani bill as something that necessitates postponement of the creation of federal regions in parts of Iraq affected by the bill.

For a long time, the Talabani bill was known mainly through paraphrases. By now, it is however clear that the proposed law is very short and basically just involves the cancellation of all “unjust” boundary changes by the former regime in pursuance of its “political goals”.

If implemented to the letter, this would mean altering the administrative boundaries of Iraq to the pre-1968 situation, roughly as on this map from 1966:

Baghdad would swallow Salahaddin, Kirkuk would grow a good deal, Najaf and Muthanna would cease to exist.

Importantly, in a consistent implementation, Kurdish-majority Dahuk would also revert to Mosul/Nineveh! Now, presumably that is not what Talabani wants (the Kurds mainly want a bigger Kirkuk), and presumably he is using the words  “unjust” and “political aims” in order to create a justification for going back to 1968 generally speaking – but not, of course, when it comes to land given to the Kurds by the Baathists. But that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Dahuk was given to the Kurds by the Baath precisely in pursuance of political “aims”, namely that of creating the first zone of administrative autonomy for a Kurdish minority in any modern Middle Eastern state. To the many Arabs in northern Mosul who suddenly found themselves in a Kurdish-majority governorate, the decision may well have been seen as  “unjust” first and foremost.

That is why the new Talabani draft law is just another article 140 in disguise. It is trying to create a cloak of objectivity but it has in fact exactly the same failings of subjectivity as article 140 has – disputed territories exist only in the eye of the beholders. As such, the new draft law of Talabani is likely to prove inflammatory to the derailed Iraqi political process rather than a means of facilitating greater rapprochement.

5 Responses to “Disputed Territory in Iraq: Talabani Tries to Create Another Article 140”

  1. lissnup said

    Reblogged this on @lissnup and commented:
    Talabani probably being encouraged to indulge in this nonsense

  2. Reidar Visser said

    Whoever is the real force behind it is certainly fishing in muddy waters. Addition of Samarra to Baghdad etc. will be seen as Shiite sectarian in the current climate. Many Shiites also believe the plan would involve annexing Nukhayb to Karbala, but as the map shows, this has no clear historical basis.

  3. Salah said

    Reidar Visser
    disputed territories exist only in the eye of the beholders

    Well said RV, historically there were many changes to the cities and towns inside Iraq along different periods of time. Those changes territories not been limited only to 1968-2003 time.

    There is also from the news calls from Anbar asking disputing territories in their land.
    Slahaldeen threaten Kurds to level of raising arm if they not stopping asking more disputing territories?

    So RV what in your view how much legal ground these “disputed territories may have?
    What you’re thoughts to solve this matter without going to full conflicts, war, political collapse?

  4. Reidar Visser said

    Well, if it was up to me, the concept of “disputed territories” should simply be slashed from the vocabulary of Iraqi politics. Injustices of the past, of which there are many, should be dealt with at the level of individual property owners rather than with reference to imagined social groups. There could be a one-off final status negotiation to round off the KRG borders – and then, finish.

  5. Salah said

    Thanks Reidar, agreed in full.

    What I am thinking is the Kurds lifting their bar of demands to central government, in the future they will using this for bargaining with centre government.
    May also use al-Hashmi case while he is with them north, make them more comfortable lifting their bar of demands far in this time than asking for them in normal time?

    المالكي: ما يحصل عليه الكرد في العراق لا يحصلون عليه في سوريا وتركيا وإيران

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