Head of Iraq’s Kurdistan climate Masoud Barzani vowed that the referendum will be held on 25 September. However, Iran Turkey and Syria which are in the neighborhood severely opposed the referendum. Turkish foreign ministry announced that it will hold a military parade in Turkish borders – which is near Kurdistan climate – in the coming days (a week before the referendum). On the other hand, the Iranian foreign ministry declared that it will not recognize the referendum and its outcome. Meanwhile, the US state department’s response has been to back a federal, stable, democratic and united Iraq. The American state department in its latest reaction did not oppose the referendum, stressing that the time of the referendum is too early and it may have a negative impact on the joint struggle against Daesh (ISIL). The only supporter of the referendum is Israel; Benyamin Netanyahu openly vowed that he will back the referendum.
Some have announced the referendum will be the formation of a second Israel. The Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said holding the independence referendum is neither for the benefit of Kurdistan region nor will it be for Iraq. Thus, the independence referendum of Kurdistan seems very difficult and even if the referendum ends with a positive vote for Kurdistan independence, getting autonomy is not easy. Iraq’s opposition to this referendum will be further increased if Kurdistan take the control of disputed regions with Baghdad by the referendum, because the Iraqi Prime Minister has not disagreed with the nature of the referendum and declared it as a “natural right” of the Kurds; saying the time of the referendum is early and to the harm of the people of Iraq and Kurdistan. But Masoud Barzani is stressed on the declared time, saying “there will be no way back.”
One of the main problems between Baghdad and Kurdistan is Kirkuk region. Kirkuk alone produces 40 percent of Iraq’s oil which is very important for the economy of the country. After Kirkuk was sieged by the ISIL in 2014, Kurdish forces took the control of the area and consider it for themselves, while Baghdad severely opposes the issue. According to the article 140 of the constitution (since 2005), a referendum had to be held on the fate of Kirkuk between Baghdad and the Kurds but has not been held yet. Now, on threshold of ISIL defeat; Masoud Barzani believes that it is the best time to hold the independence referendum on the fate of Kirkuk, because Iraq and Syria governments do not have the power of the past and are very weak, but what is worrisome is the approval of Iran and Turkey, because once the Kurdistan climate gets its independence, it will be a landlocked region and cooperation with the neighboring countries will be needed for foreign trades, specially the export of oil which is the main source of it. Opposing the referendum, the Turkish state department announced that one of the priorities of the country’s foreign policy is to preserve the land and integration of Iraq and it is directly related to Turkey’s security. Iran has long read this referendum as America’s plot for “Great Middle East”; Mohammad Khatami, the former president of Iran had said: “we need to put forward the Islamic Middle East plan before George Bush poses the big Middle East plan.” It seems that Iran and America both have their own particular plans, the United States is pursuing a major Middle East project by dividing countries into several regions and Iran is pushing for a Shi’ite crescent with influence in Syria and Iraq. How much Kurdistan and its people deserve to be an autonomous region is a separate issue, to be addressed at a later time. But the reactions of countries in the region and the world against the independence of Kurdistan are other than what the state departments have said.
Iran and Turkey oppose with the referendum on independence as they themselves have a minority Kurds, and believe that the Kurdish people within these counties will stand for independence if the Iraqi Kurds get their independence, but what experience has shown is that the independence sense appear among the people when they are ignored or considered as second-rate citizen, this is also the case with Syria’s response to the referendum.
On the contrary, this can be seen in Kirkuk independence referendum statement too; several Turkmen, Ashori and Ezadi parties have signed the statement, which means these people consider their fate the same as Kurdish people, because in Kirkuk, Arabs and Turkmen in row have the highest population after the Kurdish people, but since Kurdish people did not indiscriminate and did not consider these people as second-rate citizens, they have also signed the statement to involve themselves in the fate of Kirkuk and Kurdish people. However, the prospect of independence in Kurdistan is very dusty and vague, because it is still not clear how well the Kurdish leaders can play in this regard. On the other hand, the oppositions by Iran and Turkey will paralyze this region in terms of trade relations. The Russian state department has not reacted to the issue yet and it seems they had not made a decisive decision. Israel and America will welcome the Kurdish referendum due to having good relations with Kurds’ Peshmerga in the recent years as well as the existence of vast oil resource and at the same time, the only stable region of Iraq. The EU has a problem with the time of holding the referendum and read it as a unilateral measure.
All of these show that Kurdistan’s independence will not be easily achieved and the prospect of this independence can spark new conflicts in the region.
Mahdi Sarbaz – (DID) press agency
Translated by Taher Mojab