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 Kurdish Globe - - FRONT PAGE - By Salih Wal­ad­bagi

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.

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