SULAIMANI, Iraqi Kurdistan -- Eight years ago, Iraqi leaders sat around a table in Baghdad and under US supervision wrote a new constitution for Iraq. Article 140 of the constitution was to solve the issue of all disputed territories -- areas in the Diyala, Kirkuk and Nineveh provinces -- claimed by both the central government and the Kurdistan Region.
The deadline for the full implementation of this article was set for 2007. The Kurds opposed this deadline, saying it was too far in the future. Now, almost five years later, the deadline and Article 140 are still ink on paper.
Kurdish MPs in the Iraqi Parliament have collectively admitted they do not have enough representatives to seriously influence the Iraqi government. But they deny having been lax on the issue.
Saman Fawzi, an MP from the Kurdish alliance in the Iraqi Parliament, said, "Despite addressing this issue several times in the Iraqi Parliament, it has become crystal clear that the Iraqi government is deliberately procrastinating."
Since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, none of Iraq's three prime ministers -- Ayad Allawi, Ibrahim al-Jaafari or Nuri al-Maliki -- has taken any serious steps to implement Article 140.
Hopes were high that Maliki would put Article 140 into action, especially after he signed an agreement with Erbil in 2010, promising to implement the article. The Kurds threw their support behind him in exchange for his pledge, making it possible for Maliki to keep his post as prime minister for a second term.
The Kurds demanded that Article 140 be fully implemented by 2012. But Fawzi believes, "With this snail pace, it won't be possible to implement it within this timeframe."
Article 140 consists of three phases. The first is called "normalization" whereby displaced Kurdish families would return to their homes and Arab families brought by the former Iraqi regime to largely Kurdish areas would have to leave. The second phase is to carry out a census; the third and final stage is to carry out a public referendum on whether residents in disputed territories want their areas to be governed by the central authorities or join the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region.
Latif Sheikh Mustafa, an MP from the Change Movement (Gorran), dismissed claims that Kurdish MPs are not doing enough to push for Article 140.
"We have always raised this issue in the Iraqi Parliament, but it's the duty of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to pressure Baghdad, because we have a small number (of MPs) in the Iraqi Parliament," said Mustafa.
Mustafa said the Iraqi government has allocated around US$1.5 billion to compensate people from disputed territories as part of implementing Article 140.
"This money will make a big difference, but they don't spend it properly," he said. "Every now and then they spend a small amount. If they continue spending these funds at this slow and sluggish pace, we will need at least ten more years to complete the compensation phase and reach the second phase."
Mustafa said the MPs have asked the President of the Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani not to wait for Baghdad and to start compensating people using revenues from the Kurdistan region's oil exports.
But Nermin Osman, former deputy head of the Article 140 committee, thinks differently.
"The Kurdish leadership needs to make an agreement with Baghdad in a different way; they shouldn't tie the census phase to the normalization phase, so they can carry out the census (first)," she said.
The Iraqi government formed a new committee to oversee the implementation of Article 140 four months ago, headed by Hadi al-Amiri. However, within weeks Osman, a Kurd, was removed from her post.
The Kurds believe that Iraqi Sunni and Shia politicians, despite their deep political rivalry, are united in their stance on the issue of Kirkuk and other disputed territories.
Last month, a number of Iraqi politicians made comments along the lines of "Kirkuk is an Iraqi city" and "Article 140 is dead."
Shwan Muammad Taha, an MP from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the Iraqi Parliament, believes it's time that top Kurdish leaders step in and push for the implementation of Article 140.
"This can be solved by the Kurdish political leadership, because we (Kurdish MPs) do not have a decisive number of votes in the Iraqi Parliament," Taha said.
Meanwhile, a Kirkuk city official who requested anonymity, criticized the Kurdish leadership for compensating displaced Kurds without ensuring that they are resettling in their original towns and cities.
"They only talk about compensations," he said. "Some displaced families from Kirkuk still reside in Erbil and Sulaimani and they have received compensation. Why isn't anyone returning to Kirkuk? The government should follow up on that and make them return."