Pres­i­dent Barzani: Peo­ple of Kur­dis­tan will one day de­clare in­de­pen­dence

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS -

The pres­i­dent of Kur­dis­tan said Wed­nes­day that Kurds will hold a ref­er­en­dum on in­de­pen­dence from Iraq when the war against the Is­lamic State ex­trem­ists is ended.

“I can­not say if it will be in the next year, or when, but cer­tainly the in­de­pen­dent Kur­dis­tan is com­ing,” said Pres­i­dent Mas­soud Barzani, who is vis­ited Wash­ing­ton for a se­ries of closed-door meet­ings with Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. This is his third trip to Wash­ing­ton.

At an event hosted by the At­lantic Coun­cil and the U.S. In­sti­tute of Peace, Barzani said his peo­ple want the in­de­pen­dence to be re­al­ized peace­fully, adding that Kurds have “de­layed” hold­ing a ref­er­en­dum be­cause they are man­ning the front lines of the war against the Is­lamic State.

“It will take place when the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion is re­solved,” Mr. Barzani said.

His re­marks Wed­nes­day came against a back­drop of un­cer­tainty over how the rest of the world — let alone Bagh­dad — might re­spond if the Kur­dis­tan Re­gional Gov­ern­ment moves to break away from Iraq.

White House of­fi­cials say Pres­i­dent Obama and Vice Pres­i­dent Joseph R. Bi­den told Pres­i­dent Barzani dur­ing a meet­ing this week that the U.S. re­mains com­mit­ted to a united, fed­eral sys­tem in Iraq.

While Barzani said KRG re­la­tions with Bagh­dad have warmed since the Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Haider al-Abadi came to power last year, he pointed to on­go­ing ten­sions over Iraq’s oil rev­enues. Un­der cur­rent agree­ments, Bagh­dad is sup­posed to share 17 per­cent of the bud­get with the KRG, Pres­i­dent Barzani said.

“Well, we have not re­ceived 17 per­cent yet,” he said.

An in­de­pen­dent Kur­dish state would also cause prob­lems for Turkey, Iran and Syria, all of whom have siz­able Kur­dish mi­nori­ties.

While roughly five mil­lion Kurds live within KRG ter­ri­tory in Iraq, they make up roughly 10 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tions of Iran and Syria, and nearly 18 per­cent of Turkey.

The no­tion of Kur­dish in­de­pen­dence has long been sen­si­tive. But lead- ers like Pres­i­dent Barzani seem in­creas­ingly em­bold­ened since Kur­dish Pesh­merga fighters are tak­ing a lead role in the U.S.-backed war against the Is­lamic State ter­ror­ists. The al Qaeda-in­spired group de­clared a caliphate on the edge of KRG ter­ri­tory last year.

Barzani sought Wed­nes­day to por­tray the Is­lamic State group as be­ing on the path of de­feat in Iraq as a re­sult of the ag­gres­sive ground op­er­a­tions al­ready un­der­taken by the Pesh­merga. The Pesh­merga have “de­stroyed the myth of the IS” and taken back some 20,000 square miles of ter­ri­tory from the ter­ror­ists," he said. Some 1,200 Kur­dish fighters have been killed and roughly 7,000 wounded in the fight­ing.

Pres­i­dent Barzani said the Pesh­merga need more weapons to “end the fight sooner.” But he de­clined to sec­ond pre­vi­ous crit­i­cisms by the Kur­dish lead­ers that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has re­fused to al­low U.S. weapons trans­ported di­rectly to the KRG.

In Fe­bru­ary, the KRG’s per­ma­nent rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Wash­ing­ton slammed the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pol­icy of re­quir­ing such weapons, like heavy ma­chine guns, to pass through Bagh­dad for in­spec­tion be­fore be­ing passed on to the KRG.

“We’re at the front line, we’re at the heart of the con­flict, we are the most ef­fec­tive force in the con­flict,” Bayan Sami Ab­dul Rah­man said at the time. “Why do our weapons have to go to Bagh­dad?”

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