President Barzani urges parliament to make preparation for referendum
The Kurds need to conduct two referendums. The first one to annex Kirkuk and disputed areas to the KRG. The second one to learn people’s view about independence.
The president of Iraqi Kurdistan Massoud Barzani urged the parliament on Thursday to make quick preparation for referendum. The Kurdish political parties look like united than ever on this issue.
The president of Iraq’s autonomous region, Barzani, told the Kurdish MPs behind a closed door session that: “The parliament should make preparations to organize a referendum on the right of self-determination.”
The president told the BBC earlier that ‘it is a natural right of the Kurds to determine their future’, while the rest of Iraq is mired in a bloody sectarian conflict.
President Barzani and the Kurdish leadership believe that independence will strengthen the position of the Kurds. He described it as a “powerful weapon” on the hands.
The Kurdistan Regional Government ( KRG) has been at odds with the Iraqi federal government in the past years over a fair share of the national budget, Peshmarga budget, hydrocarbon law and Article 140.
However, the Kurds were a major player in building a new federal Iraq after the US-led invasion in 2003, but the Iraqi government has never kept the promises given to the KRG to resolve the pending disputes.
The Kurds have been the victim of the ‘wrong policies’ of the federal government and particularly the beleaguered Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, as Barzani reiterated several times in his latest speeches and interviews.
The Erbil-Baghdad ties have been deteriorating since the beginning of this year, 2014, when the Iraqi government received an order from PM Maliki to halt the KRG’s share of the national budget.
The relations deteriorated quickly and the two sides almost suspended their relations and treated each other like two different countries.
Later, the KRG decided to launch an independent oil pipeline to Turkey and exported oil to international oil markets. It was the only choice the KRG had to survive the economic crisis that emerged following withholding the budget.
Iraq has faced a new era in the contemporary history, as it is about to be partitioned almost after 100 years since the Sykes - Picko treaty in 1917.
Barzani’s speech in the parliament sparked lots of domestic and international reactions.
At the closed session, President Barzani told the MPs that there is international support for Kurdish independence, adding that those who do not support us do not oppose as well.
The strategic alliance of Barzani-led Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Change Movement (Gorran) and the two Islamic parties Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) and Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG) supported Barzani’s call to make preparation for the referendum.
However, there are some informal voices inside the PUK who say the referendum should be supervised by the federal government. The PUK politburo reacted against them, and said they did not represent the official view of the party.
In the past years, the Kurds considered the neighboring Turkey as an enemy. Nowadays, the regional and international political equations have changed. They are considered as ‘strategic alliances’ now, as a Turkish official said before.
They decided to review their policies towards each other. They have found themselves in a basket, where they have lots of common political and economic interests.
The other neighbor, having historic relation to the Kurdish leaders, Iran seemingly opposed the idea of being independent. It has sent strong signals through senior security officials that a Kurdish state is close to ‘impossible’.
The Kurdish officials understand that the road to independence is risky and is like a land of mine, which is ready to explode any time.
The Kurds have decided to go through the mineland as the president and other Kurdish officials have frequently said that: “There is not going back”.
The US, which the Kurds have counted on it for many years as a strategic ally, is supporting a strong and united Iraq, as spokesperson for the United States Department of State Jen Psaki stated at her last press conference.
The Kurds have been always accused of having discreet ties with Israel in the past, what the Kurds denied. But Israel’s PM Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a university think tank in Tel Aviv that the Kurds are “deserved” of independence.
He supported the Kurdish statehood and said that a ‘democratic and moderate’ state is good for the future of the region.
"Iraq is breaking up before our eyes” said Israeli Foreign Minister Liebreman’s spokesman, adding that: “It would appear that the creation of an independent Kurdish state is a foregone conclusion."
The Arab League offi- cially denounced Kurdish independence and the Arabic Qods newspaper described it as a “stab on the heart of Arab countries.”
Alike the Kurds, the Arab Sunnis have been marginalized in the political process in Iraq. The disputes exploded like a big volcano in June 9 when ISIS fighters and 16 other groups joined to rise against the government. The Iraqi army left military bases in a few hours. A new era started in Iraq then.
The Kurds took advantage of the opportunity and deployed the Kurdish Peshmarga forces in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and other long-standing disputed areas to ‘fill the security vacuum’, as the senior Kurdish officials claim.
The president visited Kirkuk and sent a strong message to Baghdad by saying the constitutional ‘Article 140 is accomplished’. Later, PM Maliki strongly replied Barzani and said that the ‘Article 140 is not finished yet’.
He strongly condemned the move towards refer- endum and independence and said Iraq is one country, and such actions are not acceptable.
The country is impossible to back before June 9, as Fuad Hussein, Chief of Staff to President Barzani, said in Washington DC.
Mariwan Ahmed, 38, sitting in Erbil’s Central Park near the oldest inhabited castle in the world, told The Kurdish Globe that: “I have heard in the media that the Kurds in cooperation with the Sunnis are planning to divide Iraq. I am happy if it is right. Because we have been always cheated by Arabs throughout the history. Now it is our turn. But we do not oppress others, we just take our natural rights.”
With raising his hands and turning his face to red, Ahmed sent his message to the Arab leaders and ruling party in Baghdad that the people of Kurdistan are supporting independence.
Around 95% of the people of Kurdistan voted for a referendum in 2005.