Shafaq News/ The Sunni blocs in the Iraqi parliament distanced themselves after voting on the paragraph concerning the Kurds in the borrowing law; a move that angered Kurdistan, at a time when the Al-Sadiqoun bloc -of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, confirmed the decision to vote was taken by members independently of the blocs’ leaders.
The Iraqi parliament voted early Thursday on the government's long-awaited borrowing law to secure the employees’ salaries after several weeks of delay; as the country is going through one of the most difficult financial crises due to declined oil prices.
The Kurdish blocs initially boycotted the voting session -after a dispute over a proposal by Shiite parliamentary blocs determines Kurdistan’s share of total actual expenditure -current and investment project expenditures- after excluding sovereign expenditures specified by the Federal General Budget Act, provided Kurdistan is obliged to pay for oil exported from Kurdistan; in quantities specified exclusively by SOMO (an Iraqi national company responsible for marketing Iraq’s oil). In the event of non-compliance, Kurdistan may not be reimbursed, and the violator of this provision shall be liable for the violation of the law.
After rounds of discussions, the session was held with the participation of most of the deputies -including the Kurds, after agreeing to postpone the vote on that controversial point.. But once the quorum was guaranteed, the parliament proceeded to vote on the article, causing an altercation between Kurdish deputies and others from Shiite blocs; after which the Kurdish deputies withdrew from the session.
Kurdistan Democratic Party’s (KDP) president, Masoud Barzani has been critical of Shiite and Sunni political parties, describing the parliament's vote on the borrowing law as a "stab in the back of the Kurdish people".
Mohammed Al-Khalidi, the spokesman for the Iraqi Parliamentary Front, headed by Osama al-Nujaifi, told Shafaq News agency that his front did not make any agreement with the Kurdish officials on the financing of the fiscal deficit law (the borrowing low), "what happened on Thursday is for the passage of the law”.
Al-Khalidi added, "there are two sides of the Sunnis in parliament, represented by the Iraqi forces and the front. The front is not intended for what Kurdish officials talked about; the accusations were directed at the Iraqi forces headed by Mohammed Al-Halbousi, speaker of parliament”.
There was no immediate comment from Al-Halbousi’s alliance.
"What happened on early Thursday in the House of Representatives is not a sectarian or ethnic conspiracy against the Kurds, but is the result of the opaque policy of managing Kurdistan’s resources. There is no solution without sitting down with the partners to reach a radical solution to all the outstanding files", said Alaa Talabani, member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
What about the parliament’s Shiites?
For its part, the Al-Sadiqoun bloc confirmed it did not fail the Kurds by voting on the borrowing law, "There was a decision by the House of Representatives’ members -not the heads of the political blocs.. The decision was to not postpone the article on the entitlements of the Kurds and vote on it alongside other articles of the fiscal deficit financing law”, MP Ahmed Al-Kinani stated to Shafaq News agency.
Al-Kinani added, "The issue is very normal. Since 2014, not a single barrel of Kurdistan's oil has been paid to the central government. The parliament’s members are free to vote and reject anything that does not fit and guarantee the rights of the provinces”.
Al-Kinani acknowledged a Sunni-Shiite consensus to continue the vote on Kurdistan's article, "No one failed the Kurds..They asked for a postponement of the vote on the article, but the majority in the Parliament, Shiites, Sunnis, and Turkmens refused and continued to vote on the law”.
Khalid Al-Jasha’amy, a member of the National Wisdom Movement, said, “The Kurds were ready to hand over all the exported oil to SOMO, provided the federal government would be obliged to pay for its extraction..and an agreement was reached regarding the matter”.
Al-Jasha’amy added, “The head of the KDP bloc, Vian Sabri, requested legal drafting of this agreement; and indeed it was done by the finance committee’s chairman, Haitham Al-Jubouri, and was approved by all those present. Sabri received the text of the agreement and asked for time to present it to the Kurdish political reference -so the meeting was postponed until midnight", Al-Jasha’amy continued addressing Vian Sabri, “You promised to agree on the text, as well as to not implement it now, but on 1/1/2021; provided giving a written commitment to its implementation. If you really want to do this, why not now? We have not seen any seriousness in accepting any text unless it would delay Kurdistan’s handing over what it has to pay to the state’s treasury”.
Earlier, Kurdistan’s Regional Government (KRG) said it had fulfilled all constitutional obligations, in exchange for securing and guaranteeing the constitutional entitlements of Kurdistan’s people.
Kurdish forces said that what happened in the Iraqi parliament was Shiite forces’ revenge over the Sinjar agreement –as the agreement was rejected by parties close to Iran.
The Kurdish forces’ demands in the Iraqi parliament met strong opposition from Shiite political forces; after which, Kurdistan was prevented from being included in the fiscal deficit financing law.
Kurdistan’s employees’ salaries were not included in the law, although Baghdad and Erbil reached an agreement in August to send 320 billion dinars to Erbil each month -to cover part of Kurdistan’s employees' expenses until a final agreement on differences between the two sides is reached.
Baghdad cut the salaries of Kurdistan’s employees in April after the government -led by Adel Abdul Mahdi at the time- said that Erbil had failed to meet its budget obligations of delivering 250,000 oil barrels to the federal government, the accusation was denied by the Kurdish government.
Over the past few months, the two sides have engaged in intensive discussions to reach an agreement to resolve the outstanding issues.
Bashar Al-Kiki, a member of KDP in the Iraqi parliament, said, “the rejection of Kurdish demands by Shiite forces was due to electoral objectives and an act of revenge for the Sinjar agreement between Baghdad and Erbil. We demanded the agreement between Baghdad and Erbil -to send 320 billion dinars a month to Kurdistan for three months until 2021’s budget is approved, be included. However, the Shiite political forces refused to do so, and stipulated monthly oil imports in Kurdistan be delivered, as well as revenues from border crossings; with legal accountability in the event of a breach of these conditions..Only to be faced with rejection from the Kurdish forces”.
The agreement between Baghdad and Erbil required the federal government to cover part of Kurdistan's employees' salaries (320 billion dinars), while Kurdistan’s government would cover the rest (500 billion dinars) from oil sales and border crossing revenues.
If Kurdistan delivers the full revenues -oil and the crossings revenues, it will be unable to provide 500 billion dinars for the payment of salaries to employees..This situation reveals the crippling conditions the Shiite forces have placed in front of the Kurds.
"The Kurds did not vote on the fiscal deficit law and walked out of the session. We did not expect the Shiite forces to be politically intolerant with the Kurds due to many electoral objectives -most prominent of which is the Sinjar agreement, to pressure the Kurds and Al-Kadhimi, and create crises to the Kurds”, Al-Kiki said, adding, "We have tried to reach a consensus with the political forces, we are committed to implementing agreements with the federal government and we have not refused to hand over oil or border crossings’ revenues, but the conditions of some forces are retaliatory”.
Last month, Baghdad and Erbil reached an agreement to normalize conditions in Sinjar district, the Yazidi stronghold in Nineveh province.
The agreement requires the joint administration of Sinjar between the Federal Government and KRG, as well as the removal of armed groups -notably the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and the anti-Turkish Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
The agreement did not satisfy the majority of the Shiite forces represented in the parliament, for they have armed factions within the PMF -some of which are closely linked to Iran.