Monday, November 23, 2009

Kurdistan Region and the Dangers of Remaining within Iraq

By Karim Hasan

November 2009, six years and half have passed since the fall of Saddam’s regime in April 2003. The fall of Saddam’s regime brought hope for Kurds. As the result Kurds in “Kurdistan proper” and outside planned an independent Kurdistan through a referendum, a “referendum committee” collected votes on whether Kurds want an independent Kurdistan in the part formerly within administrative borders of Iraq. “Yes” meant for independent Kurdistan, “no” meant rejecting independent Kurdistan. The vote outcome was 98 percent for the “yes”, and 2 percent for the “no” side”.

Extreme pressure and various techniques were mobilized Kurdish leader were convinced not to presume independent Kurdistan. Various reasons were given to avoid the independent Kurdistan course of action. The most common was ‘the neighbouring countries do not like to have an independent Kurdistan at their door steps – specifically Turkey’. This is one of the main reasons, which still stands, used by opponents of forming a Kurdish state in “Kurdistan proper”.

Many Kurds and non-Kurds accepted this reason, which has come under server questioning in the last few years. This very reason is formulated by many academics as belonging to “pragmatic” and “real politic” schools in political science and international relations. After a careful analysis and examination of this reluctance to independent Kurdistan, I found it is a lousy irrational failing technique, which has been keeping the Kurds away from practising their right to full self-determination and “state formation”.

Kurdish leadership endorsed federalism and power sharing formulated and assented in Iraqi Constitution exactly for the lousy reason stated above. Almost four years has passed since the endorsement of Iraq’s new Constitution in 2005 and early 2006, the federal agreements signed between Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Iraqi government in areas of revenue sharing, the repatriation of the towns and the cities of Kurdistan currently outside KRG administration, which were left to be repatriated under Article 140 of Iraq’s Constitution, has not been implemented.

Kurds were elected to high political and administrative rank in Baghdad after the fall of Saddam’s regime. Current Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, was elected to the position of presidency of the state of Iraq. Hoshyar Zibari was elected to the position of Minister of Forging Affairs, and Dr. Barham Salih to the position of Deputy Prime Minister until last July when he resigned and was asked to lead Kurdistani List campaign in KR presidential and parliamentary elections, which he completed successfully and subsequently he was nominated and appointed KRG Prime Minister.

Having a powerful Kurdish politician Jalal Talabani taking a ceremonial position in Baghdad created a leadership deficiency in PUK administered region, Kurdistan and at the international level. Prior to taking this position, he was the most influential voice campaigning for Kurdish and Kurdistan’s rights for more that 50 years. His job has been one of the most difficult positions, in which balance between Iraq and KRG was primary task of the position. He and the members of the presidential council spend most of their time debating and discussing whether to sign specific legislations and endorse them into legal documents.

Another well oriented and knowledgeable Kurdish politician Hoshyar Zibari accepted minister of foreign affairs of the state of Iraq. Often he found himself struggling whether to promote full federalism which includes promoting KRG interests, or promoting centralization policy and Arab League. Under Iraqi constitution, Kurdistan Region can have representations abroad, up to date representations have been active only in a few counties. The interest between the sides soon after the celebration period of 2003 collided. Dr. Barham Salih current KRG Prime Minister faced a similar trouble during his tenure as Iraqi deputy prime minister.

Having these top Kurdish leaders working as Iraqi officials, an Iraq, which is still member of the Arab League, is a loss of most powerful Kurdish leadership to an Iraq, which does not want to respect its constitution, Kurdistan’s identity, its rights, i.e., full implementation of Article 140.

Another problem has been the current KRG president Masoud Barzani along with his former KRG Prime Minister Nichirvan Barzani were the highest level KRG officials have not been able to chive their ask to the fullest. They represented Kurdistan Region in Iraq, Kurdistan, in the Middle East and at the international level. Unfortunately they faced similar obstacles trying to balance between being Iraqis and Kurdistanies. They have not been able to obtain all constitutional rights of Kurdistan, could not protect Kurdistan from Iraqi unconstitutional interferences, could not stand up to Turkish troop incursions and surges of market invasions. In similar ways, they have been powerless in the face of Iran violations of KRG’s rights at many fronts.

All of these Kurdish officials are loyal to Kurdistan. The trouble has been the federal formula, which has not worked for Kurdistan. Kurds and the people of Kurdistan must understand it is not worth becoming a smaller and a smaller minority in Iraq, which the new election law has been designed to achieve. Kurdish and Kurdistan population may consist 20 – 25 percent of total population of Iraq. Iraqi government has been reluctant to accept giving Kurdistan Region 17% of its annual budget.

The most dangerous reality for Kurds would be giving up Kurdish and Kurdistan’s rights. It has become evident that Iraq has been consistently working to undermine Kurdish and Kurdistan’s rights. There is not danger in having an independent Kurdistan. Independent Kurdistan will bring freedom and further progress in Kurdistan and the rest of Middle East. There are 35 - 40 million Kurds in “Kurdistan proper”, in Middle East, Europe, North America and other parts of the word, a powerful nation they may become, friendly with friendly nations, and vigilant with unfriendly nations, they will be, once independence is declared.

Kurds must tell them, those who object to an independent Kurdistan, must show them Kurdistan is not for sale, it is Kurdistan’s. It belongs to Kurds and the people of Kurdistan. Like all other nations, Kurdistan will form alliances with friendly nations in its best interest. Kurdistan must never give up its belongings, and its rights. United have Kurds stood, have not they, in the face of troubles created by outside forces? We must see these dangers have been there for a very long time, its passage can be guaranteed with Kurdish unity and independent Kurdistan.

The danger of remaining in Iraq is Kurds may become smaller and smaller minority in Iraq.

* Karim Hasan is an independent Kurdish scholar promoting an independent Kurdish state in “Kurdistan proper”. Page: