Wladimir van Wilgenburg writes for EA:
Recently I mentioned the possibility that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki would try to unsettle current good relations between his rivals in the Iraqiyya faction and the Iraqi Kurds, break down Iraqiyya’s base of support in Kirkuk.
Maliki’s recent decision to hold a Cabinet meeting in the city bore out the prediction, albeit not through an appeal to the Kurds. Instead, he played the Iraqi nationalist card, especially against Massoud Barzani, Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader and President of the Kurdistan Regional Government. Allegedly ordering the removal of Kurdish security forces from Kirkuk, one of the main demands of Arab nationalists since 2003, Maliki said that this is an Iraqi city.
During the formation of the Iraqi Government in 2011, Maliki promised the Kurds that he woud implement their demands. Now --- even though most Arabs and Turkmen supported the Iraqiyya list during the 2010 elections --- the faction needs the Kurds to get rid of Maliki and to protect fugitive Vice-President Tariq Hashimi and Deputy Premier Salih al-Mutlaq from Baghdad, whom Maliki has threatened to fire.
Kirkuk’s Arab politicians then voiced their concern over the close links between the Kurdish parties and the Iraqiyya list and called on Baghdad to protect them. It looks like Maliki is considering that demand. Even before this week, there were claims that Maliki was removing Kurds from security positions in Kirkuk, Mosul, and Bagdad and excluding them from security meetings.
It now remains to be seen how the Kurds are going to react to this, politically or militarily. The Kurdish intelligence chief and eldest son of Masoud Barzani, Masrour Barzani, has warned Baghdad on his Facebook page, saying that bringing forces, creating chaos, and ignoring the Constitution will not change the "Kurdistani" identity of Kirkuk. And, in a quick counter-move, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Kurdish Regional Government and seven other ministers visited Kirkuk on Wednesday.