Tensions Rising Between Iraqi Government And Kurdish Regional Government – OpEd


By Gizem Erbas

Recently, at the end of July, Iraqi Army and Kurdish Regional Government’s forces Peshmerga came to a standoff near the border of Syria. The main reason behind this development was Syria’s political situation and its effect on political disputes between Erbil and Baghdad in Iraq. After the liberation of most Kurdish cities in Syria and the announcement of Kurdish Region’s leader Barzani that Syrian Kurdish soldiers have been trained in the Kurdistan Region for self-defense, Iraqi president Maliki sent troops to Syrian border to protect the territorial integrity of Iraq. Thus, there was serious concern about an armed clash between both sides.

Location of Iraqi Kurdistan (dark green) within Iraq
Location of Iraqi Kurdistan (dark green) within Iraq

In 6 August, with the arbitration of US Officials, Iraq’s government and the Kurdistan region have agreed that they will pull back troops from the disputed area along the Syrian border to ease tensions.

The main issue of the long-running dispute between Baghdat and Erbil governments is the revenue sharings and the management of the oil resources. The Kurdish Region signed international treaties relating to the management of oil sources. However, Baghdad claims that it has the exclusive authority to manage the oil resources in the whole country, including the Kurdish Region. Baghdad government relies on the Iraqi constitutional ruling that only the central government should sign international agreements. Baghdad cut the revenue payments to the Kurdish government, because the Iraqi government has lost the revenue due to Kurdish oil sales.

On the other hand, Kurdish government argues that the agreements they signed with foreign oil companies are in line with the country’s constitution, because they were forced to sell their crude oil as a result of the delayed revenue transfers from the central government. In an interview of Al-Jazeera with Barzani, he said that Baghdad’s cut in funds to the Kurdish region is viewed as a “declaration of war.”

In accordance with this dispute, the Iraqi Oil and Gas Draft Law that enhances the exclusive rights of the central government on oil fields still creates a great tension between Baghdad and Kurdish Region. Because of that, this draft could not be approved by the parliament since 2007.


JTW - the Journal of Turkish Weekly - is a respected Turkish news source in English language on international politics. Established in 2004, JTW is published by Ankara-based Turkish think tank International Strategic Research Organization (USAK).

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