Alwaght- On October 9, 2020, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Federal Government of Iraq agreed on the administration of the city of Sinjar. Representatives of the two sides agreed to end the presence of PKK (The Kurdistan Workers’ Party-Kurdish militant and political organization) and other armed groups in and around Sinjar at a meeting attended by Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG). The two sides also agreed to restore stability and normalize the situation in the city. Also at the meeting, al-Kadhimi stressed the need to finalize an agreement on administrative and security issues in Sinjar, saying that this would facilitate and accelerate the return of displaced persons to Sinjar.
Based on the agreement, the Joint Delegation between Baghdad-Erbil will elect a capable and competent governor for Sinjar. They will recruit and arm 2,500 Yazidis, prioritizing displaced youths in camps as Sinjar guards, whilst PKK-affiliated individuals will not be joining the force.
The city will be secured by the local police and the Iraqi National Intelligence Service (INIS), and all other forces, including the PKK, will be expelled from the area. The agreement has now provoked mixed reactions at a political level in Iraq. On the one hand, the Central Government of Iraq, the KRG, the United States, Turkey and the United Nations have expressed their full support for the deal, and on the other hand, some of Iraq’s domestic political groups as well as the PKK terrorist group have criticized the deal and expressed their doubts regarding the issue.
Kurdistan Democratic Party's (KDP) Expectations Concerning Sinjar
Technically, the Kurds, headed by the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iraq led by Masoud Barzani, are considered the most important faction pleased with the agreement done between the Central Government of Iraq and the KRG over Sinjar. The most significant reaction of the Kurds regarding this deal can be evaluated as Masoud Barzani’s statement calling the agreement between Baghdad and Erbil on the issue of Sinjar, a positive and correct step to have taken on the matter, and he further said: This agreement restores stability in Sinjar and normalizes the situation in the city. In addition, Masrour Barzani, the prime minister of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, and Nechirvan Barzani, as the second President of the Kurdistan region, also supported the agreement.
Now we should ask the question, why have the Iraqi Kurds particularly welcomed the Sinjar agreement? In response to this question, we can point out three main sections. At the basic level, the Kurds, and especially the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Iraq, intend to use this agreement to oust the PKK-affiliated forces from Sinjar whom are considered as their rivals. Secondly, the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iraq intends to hail the agreement with the central government as a great victory and use it as an advantage in the upcoming Iraqi parliamentary and regional elections. Thirdly, the Democratic Party and the Barzanis intend to cite the recent agreement as a prelude to the implementation of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution to resolve the conflict over disputed territories. Overall, on the one hand, the Barzani’s intend to weaken their traditional rival in the region, the PKK, and on the other hand, they intend to gain a winning card for future political competitions concerning the Kurdistan region.
Has the Implementation of Article 140 been Triggered?
In the current situation, one of the most important issues emphasized by the Kurds and the central government is the use of the Sinjar agreement as a prelude to resolve the prolonged conflict between Erbil and Baghdad over the implementation of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution. According to this article, in three stages, population normalization should be implemented in areas where the Kurds are in dispute with the central government, and finally a referendum must be held to determine the task of managing these areas, which include parts of Nineveh, Kirkuk, Salahuddin Governorate and Diyala Province. Since 2005 to this day, the Iraqi Security Forces have been set to manage the disputed areas of Erbil and Baghdad. During developments following the September 2017 Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum, the Iraqi Security Forces had brief clashes with the Kurds over the disputed areas.
Nevertheless, under current circumstances, the agreement on Sinjar in the province of Nineveh can be considered as a kind of exaggeration and not a major step towards the implementation of Article 140. The fact is that an agreement on Sinjar in Nineveh province, a city where crimes against humanity were committed during the rise of ISIS, can be defined as more of a blackmail campaign for the Kurds and Mustafa Al-Kadhimi for the upcoming elections than a targeted agreement to solve problems between the parties. Therefore, this agreement cannot be evaluated as the implementer or stimulus for the implementation of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution.
Doubts about the Nature of the Agreement
Following the announcement of the Erbil-Baghdad agreement regarding Erbil, Iraqi political groups have strongly questioned the agreement. Even some political currents have assessed United States rapid support for the recent agreement as dubious and vague. For example, in response to the agreement between Baghdad and Erbil over the Sinjar region, Qais al-Khazali, Secretary General of Asaib Ahl al-Haq Movement, tweeted: Hashd al-Shaabi liberated the city from the clutches of ISIS and the expulsion of its forces from Sinjar is part of the political ceremonies and electoral compromises that are written at the expense of the Yazidis.
In fact, there is now this skepticism amongst Iraqi political forces that the purpose of this agreement was to exploit the elections and to oppose Hashd al-Shaabi in a targeted manner; Since the agreement between Erbil and Baghdad explicitly prohibits the presence of any force other than the police force in the city of Sinjar, it is concluded that the Protection Force of Sinjar (HPŞ) and Hashd al-Shaabi forces must deport the city. This has largely cast doubt on whether the nature of this agreement is non-partisan and of national interest or vice versa.