U.S. Encourages Efforts to Enhance Baghdad-Erbil Ties

During a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Fuad Hussein on March 26, both sides discussed

U.S. Encourages Efforts to Enhance Baghdad-Erbil Ties

During a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Fuad Hussein on March 26, both sides discussed the Erbil-Baghdad relationship and the upcoming visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani.

“The Secretary encouraged efforts to enhance the Baghdad-Erbil relationship, bring economic benefits to all Iraqis, improve Iraq’s energy independence, strengthen Iraq’s ability to fully exercise its sovereignty, and promote stability and security for all Iraqis,” U.S. Department of State Spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement on March 26.

Moreover, Miller told reporters that “the Secretary made clear that stability between Baghdad and Erbil would bring economic benefits to all Iraqis, it would be good for the region, and that we encourage the two partners to work together.”

Furthermore, he added that the United States has been engaged at the most senior levels on the resumption of oil exports from the Kurdistan Region.

On March 25, 2023, independent crude exports through the Iraq-Turkey Pipeline were stopped after an international arbitration court in Paris ruled in favor of Baghdad against Ankara. 

“We have urged all parties to reach an agreement to resume the flow of oil through this pipeline. We believe that restarting oil exports through the pipeline would be mutually beneficial to all parties, and because of that reason, that’s why we’ll continue to pursue it,” Miller added.

Iraqi Prime Minister Sudani is scheduled to embark on his inaugural trip to Washington, D.C., where he will meet with U.S. President Joe Biden on April 15. This visit marks his first official visit since assuming office in October 2022.

Sierwan Najmaldin Karim, President of the Washington Kurdish Institute, told Kurdistan Chronicle that Secretary Blinken’s remarks on the Baghdad-Erbil relationship clearly demonstrate that the Kurdistan Region is a vital part of the United States’ Iraq policy. “Kurdistan has had a long standing partnership with the United States and has been the only reliable ally in Iraq to stand with the United States for decades,” he said. 

“These remarks underscore Washington’s concern about Baghdad’s mistreatment of the Kurdistan Region, a policy that has been intensified in recent years and has a direct impact on U.S. national security due to Iran’s involvement.” 

Karim underlined that the United States “holds significant leverage over Iraq, particularly in terms of its economic and security influence. However, it’s crucial for the United States to effectively utilize this leverage on Baghdad to reverse their anti-Kurdish policies in order to foster stability in Iraq.”

Mohammed A. Salih, Senior Fellow at Foreign Policy Research Institute, told Kurdistan Chronicle that it is important that Secretary Blinken encourage improving the Erbil-Baghdad relationship. 

“It’s important to realize that there is a great deal of room for a win-win agreement between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government that would enhance Iraq’s stability and pave the way for prosperity for both sides,’ he said. 

“Therefore, U.S. efforts also have to go a step further by drawing on the practical tools and leverage that the U.S. government has at its disposal to play a major role in brokering an enduring deal between Baghdad and the KRG. Anything short of this would threaten Iraq’s stability and U.S. regional interests, in the medium and long term,” he concluded.

In February, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Barzani was invited by the Biden administration to Washington to meet with top U.S. officials and members of Congress.

In recent months, disputes have increased between Erbil and Baghdad over the Iraqi budget, oil and gas revenue, minority quotas, and the Kurdistan Region’s parliamentary elections.

In a statement on March 16, the KRG reported that Baghdad has yet to fully disburse the owed budget of 9.4 trillion Iraqi dinars to the Kurdistan Region, including the portion of sovereign expenditures, such as salaries for the peshmerga forces.

On March 18, the Political Bureau of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) announced that they would boycott the Kurdistan Region’s parliamentary elections in response to rulings of the Federal Supreme Court of Iraq that have undermined the institutions of the Kurdistan Region and eliminated quota seats for minorities within the Region.

The KDP said that the “successive decisions made by the Federal Supreme Court have raised concerns regarding the principle of separation of powers, as the Court has seemingly encroached upon the domains of both the legislative and executive branches.” 

In a statement on March 20, the Federal Supreme Court defended itself and said that “local authorities should not exercise the exclusive competences of the federal authorities, as this concerns the sovereignty and unity of the country.” It warned it could take legal action against those that damage its reputation.

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