Iraqis Squabble Over Plan to Redraw Borders

A plan to restore Iraq's provincial borders to their status prior to Saddam Hussein's regime has revived fears of sectarian conflict, Oudai Hatem reports.

al-monitor Iraqi Sunni parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, the president of the autonomous Kurdistan region Massud Barzani and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani convene during a meeting of Iraqi leaders in Arbil, Iraq April 28, 2012.  Photo by REUTERS/Azad Lashkari.

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sectarian violence, sectarian, kurdistan, krg

Oct 19, 2012

A new bill proposing administrative border demarcation between Iraqi provinces threatens existing alliances between blocs. The proposal could revive national, sectarian and ethnic conflict. The Kurdistan Alliance (KA) welcomed the draft, but the Iraqiya List party rejected it.

President Jalal Talabani proposed the bill, which provides for “the cancellation of decrees, resolutions and other legislation issued under the rule of the Baath Party from 1968 until 2003, which were instated in order to achieve the parties' political objectives, thus leading to unfair changes and manipulations in the administrative borders of the provinces, districts and counties.”

However, the KA said the bill was unlikely to pass because of the "chauvinist[ic] mentality" of the majority of members of parliament.

Hamid Bafi, KA member of parliament (MP), told Al-Hayat: "The bill includes the regions that were carved out of the Kurdistan region and other provinces for political and demographic purposes, but does not include the decisions that turned counties into districts or districts into provinces, as is the case of Najaf, Salahuddin and Duhok, which were turned into provinces in the 1970s due to population growth.”

He continued, “The bill provides for the implementation of Article 140 of the constitution, and it will solve the disputes raging between the [Kurdistan] Regional Government and the central government [in Baghdad] as well as those plaguing the provinces, especially considering that the former regime carved the city of Nukhayba out of the Karbala province and attached it to the Al-Anbar province, despite the fact that the size of this province amounts to roughly a third of the size of Iraq.”

“The former regime carved out a lot of areas of the Kurdistan region and attached them to other provinces due to demographic changes,” he added.

Bafi ruled out the possibility that "the bill will pass during the current parliamentary session," because of the "chauvinist mentality that still controls some, and the fact that some are seeking to restore the central state and thus confiscate the rights of Kurds, Turkmen and other nationalities." He acknowledged that "this bill will further complicate the situation," and he held the political blocs "responsible for delaying the implementation of Article 140.”

Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, leader of the Sahwat al-Iraq (Iraq's Awakening) party told Al-Hayat that "Nukhayb has been part of the Al-Anbar province since the establishment of the Iraqi state, and the former regime carved it out, attached it to Karbala for one year, and then returned it to Al-Anbar.”

Abu Risha, leader of the Unity Alliance of Iraq, which is affiliated with the Iraqiya List, said he opposed changing the borders of provinces. "Any attempt to annex Kirkuk or carve out parts of Mosul, Diyala or other provinces will revive tensions and perhaps lead to an armed conflict, which is something that we do not need," he said.

Iraqiya List MP Khalid al-Alwani said in a statement that “introducing the province demarcation bill stipulated by Article 140 every now and then can create a crisis between the components of the Iraqi people and the inhabitants of the provinces in the event that areas were removed from provinces and transferred to others.” He said that “Iraq cannot handle another crisis than the one it is currently suffering from.”

“We will strongly oppose this bill because it will further complicate the Iraqi political scene and spread chaos among the provinces. Moreover, it will lead to calls asking for the formation of regions,” he added.

Alwani, MP from the western Anbar province, said that the “areas of Ain ​​al-Tamur, Nukhayb and Al-Rahhaliya have been part of the Al-Anbar province since the Ottoman era.”

The Parliamentary Legal Committee had confirmed Oct. 14 that “the province demarcation law stipulated by Article 140 would include the areas of Nukhayb, Al-Rahhaliyah and Ain Al-Tamur in the Al-Anbar province, and would return the limits of those provinces to the way they were.”

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