Kur­dis­tan de­serves an am­i­ca­ble di­vorce from Baghdad

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS - By | Mas­rour Barzani * * Mas­rour Barzani is the chan­cel­lor of the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion Se­cu­rity Coun­cil.

Through­out the mod­ern his­tory of Iraq, we have lived in de­nial. By we, I mean the Kur­dish peo­ple, who com­prise one-quar­ter of the coun­try; the Arabs and other na­tion­al­i­ties who make up the rest; and our friends around the world, who have been hop­ing that a func­tional, plu­ral­is­tic na­tion could some­how, some­day take hold. As it was drawn from the ruins of the Ot­toman Em­pire, Iraq is a con­cep­tual fail­ure, com­pelling peo­ples with lit­tle in com­mon to share an un­cer­tain fu­ture. It is time to ac­knowl­edge that the ex­per­i­ment has not worked. Iraq is a failed state, and our con­tin­ued pres­ence within it con­demns us all to un­end­ing con­flict and en­mity.

Tur­moil sur­rounds us. In the sum­mer of 2014, the face of the na­tion was ex­posed when the Is­lamic State ter­ror­ist group seized a third of the coun­try and a sig­nif­i­cant part of the bor­der with Syria be­cause the most cred­i­ble in­sti­tu­tion in the land, the Iraqi army, failed to de­fend it. Eleven years af­ter the tyranny of Sad­dam Hus­sein ended, Iraq was ex­posed for what it is: a coun­try that can­not pro­tect its peo­ple and can barely de­fine its in­ter­ests.

Com­pul­sory co­ex­is­tence has not worked. And that is why the Kur­dis­tan re­gion of Iraq will hold a ref­er­en­dum to es­tab­lish a sovereign state, which would for­mal­ize a di­vorce from Baghdad and se­cure the area we now con­trol as a home­land for the Kur­dish peo­ple.

This move will not only of­fer hope to the Kurds; it will also bring cer­tainty to a di­vided re­gion. Since the fall of Hus­sein, we have proved our­selves to be re­li­able al­lies to many of our neigh­bors. We are a bedrock in the fight against the Is­lamic State, host­ing mil­i­taries from at least a dozen na­tions and mak­ing tremen­dous sac­ri­fices to lib­er­ate Arab ter­rito- ries from the jug­ger­naut that im­per­ils us all.

We stand near the gates of Mo­sul, will­ing to play a sub­stan­tial role in oust­ing the Is­lamic State from Iraq’s sec­ond-largest city. We have opened our gates to hun­dreds of thou­sands of refugees over the past two years, as well as dur­ing the dark­est days of the sec­tar­ian war that ear­lier rav­aged the cen­ter and south. The Kur­dis­tan re­gion is now home to a large, thriv­ing Christian com­mu­nity whose mem­bers fled Mo­sul and Baghdad for a haven the cen­tral gov­ern­ment could not pro­vide.

In short, we have pulled our weight. We have tried to be in­clu­sive. We have been pa­tient. But eco­nomic agree­ments that had guar­an­teed us rev­enue streams have been re­peat­edly dis­hon­ored and now sit dis­carded. Un­der suc­ces­sive agree­ments, we have had du­ties as a com­po­nent of the Iraqi state, but they have never trans­lated into rights.

Who­ever has held the seat of power in Baghdad has re­neged on prom­ises and ig­nored obli­ga­tions, many of them con­sti­tu­tional. Even if a leader emerged who was bet­ter dis­posed to­ward us, his good­will could never over­come a sys­tem geared to­ward si­phon­ing away our rights. We are sub­jects, not cit­i­zens. There is sim­ply no trust be­tween us and the cen­tral gov­ern­ment. The re­la­tion­ship is ir­rec­on­cil­able.

The so­lu­tion be­gins in Baghdad. We have tried ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble with the cen­tral gov­ern­ment, and noth­ing has worked. A sep­a­ra­tion is the only op­tion re­main­ing. We want to move ahead with a vote on in­de­pen­dence, but we must first work with Baghdad to pave the way for an am­i­ca­ble split that se­cures our mu­tual in­ter­ests. That process has be­gun. We have broad sup­port among the var­i­ous Kurd- ish fac­tions. We will also hold talks with Turkey and Iran to ex­plain that this move will not desta­bi­lize their bor­ders. We strongly be­lieve that this ef­fort will serve as a re­set for the re­gion, as much for our friends as for us.

We have all done enough pre­tend­ing — to our peril. An Iraq free from the shack­les of what Baghdad de­scribes as the “Kur­dish is­sue” would be lib­er­at­ing for both sides, dis­en­tan­gling in­ter­de­pen­den­cies that each of us re­sent and al­low­ing us to se­cure our eco­nomic foot­ing.

Be­yond that, though, an in­de­pen­dent Kur­dis­tan, with ac­cess to the weapons we need to de­fend our­selves, would se­cure the in­ter­ests of our al­lies and the peo­ple of the re­gion. Our re­la­tion­ship with Baghdad has crip­pled us in this fight. We have no ac­cess to bat­tle-chang­ing weapons, which must be fun­neled through the cen­tral gov­ern­ment. In­de­pen­dence would al­low us to se­cure longterm loans and bonds in the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket and ex­port oil and gas at com­pet­i­tive prices to al­le­vi­ate our fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties.

To re­main in­vested in a state that has clearly and re­peat­edly failed is folly. It is past time to rec­og­nize that. With lit­tle else but the ded­i­ca­tion of its peo­ple, the Kur­dis­tan re­gion has al­ready built the foun­da­tions of a suc­cess­ful, pros­per­ous state. We have earned the right to self-de­ter­mi­na­tion and have shown that, even with­out state­hood, we are a val­ued com­po­nent of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, the most stead­fast of al­lies in a re­gion short on cer­tainty. We stand ready to join the com­mu­nity of na­tions.

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