The trip to Baghdad turned out to be productive, but perhaps too little too late to prevent the disintegration of Iraq. John Kerry succeeded in getting the besieged Iraqis to start working on a better power-sharing arrangement, in hope of producing a unified government in the face of an onslaught by the ISIS terrorist army. All of the main political leaders have committed to seating the new Parliament by July 1 as required by their constitution, and to work together to rebuild sectarian support for the central government:
Kerry on Monday met with top officials from Iraq’s bitterly divided Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish political coalitions during a quick trip to Baghdad.
He said each of the Iraqi officials — including Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (NOO’-ree ahl-MAHL’-ih-kee) — committed to seat the new parliament by July 1 as the constitution requires.
Iraq’s leaders have in the past delayed decisions on how to divide power.
Scolding the fractious Iraqi politicians and military leaders was Kerry’s priority in his trip to Baghdad, but he also held out a potential carrot, too:
“Well, I’m here obviously to convey to you President Obama’s and the American people’s commitment to help Iraq,” Mr. Kerry said. “We have two tracks as you know: One is the security situation and the other is the political situation. And we need to work them in parallel.”
Mr. Kerry then added that the top priority was “for the Iraqi people, for the integrity of the country, its borders, for its sovereignty,” and he said that ISIS was a threat to “all of us.”
The insurgents, Mr. Nujaifi responded, were “a threat to the entire world, and we have to confront it through direct military operations and through political reforms so that we can inject new hope into our own people so that they can support the political process and the unity of Iraq.” …
President Obama is considering carrying out airstrikes against the militants, but the White House does not want to take sides in a sectarian clash in Iraq and, thus, is urging the Iraqis to pull together.
“The United States would like to see the Iraqi people find leadership that is prepared to represent all of the people of Iraq,” Mr. Kerry said during the Sunday stop in Cairo.
Is it too little, too late? It sounds like it is for Kurdish president Masoud Barzani. In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour earlier today, Barzani said that Kurds have spent the past ten years committed to a federal system of democratic government in a united Iraq. They have engaged in the political system, worked with Baghdad despite plenty of disputes over the status of Kirkuk and Mosul, and have defended the country with their Peshmerga — more ably, as it turns out, than the Iraqi military. Now, Barzani says in a thinly-veiled demand for independent nationhood, it’s time to let the Kurds go their own way:
“Iraq is obviously falling apart,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview. “And it’s obvious that the federal or central government has lost control over everything. Everything is collapsing – the army, the troops, the police.”
“We did not cause the collapse of Iraq. It is others who did. And we cannot remain hostages for the unknown,” he said through an interpreter.
“The time is here for the Kurdistan people to determine their future and the decision of the people is what we are going to uphold.” …
“After the recent events in Iraq, it has been proved that the Kurdish people should seize the opportunity now – the Kurdistan people should now determine their future.”
That would be very bad news indeed for Baghdad, and for the Iraqi military, and especially for American efforts to hold Iraq together as a multi-sectarian republic not completely under the thumb of Iran. If the Kurds hit the exits, then there isn’t much reason for the Sunnis to stick around either — and not much reason for Maliki to ask for American assistance, or to get it. The majority Shi’ite government will instead look to Iran for Shi’ite support and fight a sectarian war, with the Kurds on the sidelines fighting ISIS on their own. With Turkey now looking to the Kurds as their “best ally” in the region, independence may be more within their grasp than ever before.
Kerry will meet Barzani in Erbil tomorrow, and may not like what he’ll hear.