Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Iraq: Relations with opposition deteriorate

The already tense relationship between the Kurdish authorities and the opposition worsened this month with Goran, Ittihad Al-Islami and Al-Jama'a Al-Islamiya proving relentless in their push against the government. The two sides were supposed to be cooperating to come up with a joint plan for reform in the region and had held a series of meetings in recent weeks that caused many to believe relations were on the mend. However, talks collapsed in July after the opposition accused the government of prevaricating and of ignoring all their proposed changes, something that prompted them to suspend their co-operation.

It isn't only the reform issue that is irking the opposition. They are still making a number of key demands which the authorities have until now refused to implement. These demands are that the government bring to justice those who are responsible for killing protesters in the demonstrations that took place in Suleimania from February; that it stop arresting and detaining political activists and members of the opposition; and that it lift the economic and political siege it has placed on the opposition since the outbreak of the popular protests. The government suspended the financial grants it pays to the opposition parties when the public protests broke out, accusing them of being behind the unrest. It has yet to restore these payments.

This suspension of funds has provoked outrage among opposition groups. So much so that the moderate Islamist party, Al-Jama'a Al-Islamiya, has taken out a legal case against prime minister Barham Saleh and finance minister Bayiz Saeed Mohammad Talabani for cutting off the payments. The trial was due to begin on 25th July.

Given the government's refusal to deal with any of the opposition's requests, tensions are rising again. While the authorities appeared last month to have put an end to the public demonstrations, a protest was held on 15th July in Suleimania. The security forces moved in quickly to prevent the demonstration from growing and also attacked and detained a number of journalists who had gone to cover the event, confiscating their equipment. It seems, however, that the public mood is once again on the offensive and further demonstrations may well be in the offing.

For more news and expert analysis about Iraq, please see Iraq Focus.

© 2011 Menas Associates

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