Friday, September 3, 2010

US Vice-President Biden Arrives in Kurdistan



ERBIL, Iraqi Kurdistan: US Vice-president Joe Biden arrived here in the Kurdistan region of Iraq on Wednesday, as the Kurds are largely worried about the withdrawal of US combat forces, a move that could deteriorate their region’s relative stability.

The date of the Biden’s arrival to Kurdistan coincides with the day of the official end of US combat operations in Iraq, as the troops have just been decreased to a bit less than 50,000 people.

Many Iraqis are worried about Obama’s substantial drawdown of US troops at a time when the insurgents still prove their resilience, and the Iraqi Arab parties have yet to agree to form of a new government almost six months after elections were held in March.

The Kurds have no apparent role in the political deadlock, but they are also increasingly distrustful of the Iraqi Arab leaders to be sincere with them in the absence of a larger US presence in the country.

"The Kurds have some reason to be nervous about US departure,” said Kenneth Katzman, specialist in Middle East affairs for the Congressional Research Service where he provides analysis on Iraq and Middle East to the members of Congress and their staffs.

“The US departure will mean that the KRG loses a valuable ally that is guaranteeing the autonomy of the KRG," added Katzman. “Because both Shiite and Sunni Arabs do not want Kurds having autonomy or control over their own oil resources.”

This has been the second visit paid by Biden to Iraqi Kurdistan since he has taken office. But he has visited the Arab Iraq five times.

Biden first arrived in Baghdad Monday meeting with top Iraqi leaders, commemorating the shift of mission, and more seriously urging them to accelerate forming a government at this “critical time,” according to his national security adviser, Antony J. Blinken.
However, some see Biden’s visit to meet Massoud Barzani, president of the semiautonomous Kurdistan region, as a sign of Kurdish political strength fostered by increasingly deepening divisions between the Shiite Arabs and the Sunni Arabs in the center and south of Iraq.

“A weak Baghdad equates with certainty and unassailable fortune for the Kurdistan region,” writes Ranj Alaaldin, in his column for the Guardian.

“History teaches that a damaged Baghdad poses no armed threat to Kurdistan's borders, while a divided Baghdad means Kurdistan is left to its own devices as it maximizes its economic and energy resource potential.”

One of the most pressing issues between the Arabs in Baghdad and the Kurds in Erbil is the issue of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, which could end up in an armed conflict if the non-Kurds remain denying the constitutional resolution of the problem.

According to Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, the people of the disputed regions including Kirkuk shall decide in a referendum whether they want to join Kurdistan or the Arab Iraq.

The Arab and Turcoman components of the city are bitterly opposed to this article fearing its likelihood to end Kirkuk up under the grip of the Kurds.

“US spy agencies view political stalemate in Iraq as the biggest threat to security in Iraq as the American military scales back its mission in the country,” wrote AFP quoting an anonymous-senior US-intelligence official.

Despite all these worries about the future of Iraq, Obama kept his pledge to withdraw his troops for the sake of the domestic issue.

In an address made from the Oval Office this past Iraq’s morning, Obama declared that American combat mission in Iraq was over.

He said it was time for his administration to consider domestic pressing issues and improvement of US economy dominant.

“We have sent our young men and women to make enormous sacrifices in Iraq, and spent vast resources abroad at a time of tight budgets at home,” Mr. Obama said.

“Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility. Now, it’s time to turn the page.”

Though Obama reiterated that the Iraq-war was a mistake at the first place, he praised his predecessor George W. Bush whose ““support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security,” was doubtless.