Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, today announced he is replacing long-time Foreign Minister Heshyar Zebari, a top Kurdish politician. He has named State of Law MP Hussain al-Shahristani as acting FM.
As tensions between Maliki and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) continue to rise, the Kurdish members of his outgoing government have been boycotting cabinet meetings, meaning cabinet meetings have no trade or health ministers, nor a president.
The Kurds announced the boycott earlier this week, after Maliki accused them of providing aid to ISIS, and of allowing ISIS to use Arbil, the Kurdish capital, as a base of operations.
There is no evidence of any of Maliki’s claims, which seem farfetched given the substantial US presence in Arbil. Rather it seems likely Maliki is making allegations because of tensions over the KRG seizing several disputed cities in recent weeks, including oil-rich Kirkuk.
The KRG is also openly talking about having a referendum on outright secession from Iraq, so Maliki seems to be gambling that he can hurt the changes of such a vote by portraying the Kurds as pro-terrorist.
So far, it’s only meant growing acrimony between the two sides, and today’s replacement of Zebari, a lame-duck FM at any rate, is likely to convince the Kurds that they won’t get much out of a new power-sharing deal, and are better off on their own.