The potential problems lying ahead call for unity at home. We must break the current political impasse in the Kurdistan Region and resolve the financial crisis to be able to meet the challenges of tomorrow, PUK’s first deputy Kosrat Rasul told Rudaw. The lack of transparency in Erbil’s oil sales is one of the main causes of Kurdistan’s recent problems.
Rudaw: The initiative you recently issued has now been taken by some as an indication that there is a big danger to Kurds. Is there any danger or information you are aware of that made you publish this message?
Kosrat Rasul: The indications are that big changes will happen in the region this year, especially after a complete retake of Mosul. Kurds are one of the important players in the Middle East who have had a key role in the fight against terror. That is why these changes should not be made without considering the position of the Kurds in the region. Unfortunately, because of the internal state of the Kurdistan Region, peoples’ living conditions and the abundance of crises in the region make us fear the future and look at the changes with suspicion. I am very sure, and I have always emphasized, that Kurds can accomplish their goals if they are united. The current conditions are apt for the Kurds at the moment. We now have good support from the outside world. If we do not resolve our internal problems, we might lose this chance and might not have another chance for 100 years.
You had mentioned earlier that the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi forces will be more influential this year. Do you anticipate a war between the Peshmerga and the Hashd al-Shaabi forces in the Kurdish regions after the Mosul offensive is over, given that their leaders often threaten the Kurds? What do you think is necessary to be done to avoid this war?
We have a shared history with many of our Shiite brothers. We were both oppressed by the Baath Party regime. None of us should think about this war. This subject is also related to the internal state of the Kurdistan Region. They know that they cannot confront us if we are united. However, we will face undesirable problems, including the Hashd al-Shaabi one, if we are weak and divided.
You accompanied Barzani in his recent visit to Baghdad. What is the agreement regarding the existence of the Peshmerga in the Kurdish regions? Would the Peshmerga pull out from the areas they have liberated?
The Peshmerga would not pull out from the areas designated as Kurdish regions, areas determined by Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution which was voted for by the Iraqi people.
You said that independence was not a dream when you were conferred upon the Golden Pegasus award in Italy. Is your position on this different? Are there practical steps as regards independence?
Yes, independence is not a dream. I see a realistic Kurdistan nowadays, and I am sure every Kurd sees it this way. We have to first take practical quick steps, sorting out peoples’ living conditions, resolving the disagreements and diminishing our differences. This will be a strong factor in achieving this independence. I think we have to improve peoples’ living conditions as we try to reach independence. We have to work on democracy and protect the freedom of expression. We have to confront corruption, and be transparent in our governance. We can move forward better this way.
In your recent message, you called on the five main political parties in the Kurdistan Region to meet. There have been, in the past, such meetings without any concrete result. What do you make of this?
The timing of these meetings is different. The existing dangers are good incentives for the key political parties to settle these problems. However, I stress that peoples’ confidence in the government should be restored and people should directly take part in resolving these problems.
Barzani issued a statement at the end of last year calling for some kind of agreement on a replacement for his position as President of the Kurdistan Region. Why would the parties not submit their candidates for this position? Are you willing to take this position temporarily?
Positions of authority have not been and are not important to me. Let there be social justice, transparency in governance, and good living conditions for the people.
The questions of the presidency of the region, the government and the parliament are now viewed as one case. How do you think these three positions will be settled in a way that ensures political balance in the region?
Restoring power balance in the Kurdistan Region will require a reshuffle and redistribution of all the positions. Power balance is not ensured by giving out positions. Rather, there should be power balance in political decision-making, foreign relations, and other relevant aspects. I think high positions should be assigned on the basis of the outcome of the election.
During the visit by the French President to Erbil, you issued a short message declaring that no party alone can rule Kurdistan. What did you mean by this?
The message is clear. The governance track record in Kurdistan has proved that no party alone, whether it be the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) or the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), can rule the region. That is why the parties should come to an agreement and rule the Kurdistan Region together.
You criticize the oil and gas question along with the ministry of natural resources. Do you have any projects or suggestions to better run the ministry?
Our big dream was to build a strong economy for the Kurdistan Region through oil and other natural resources
One of the big problems the Kurdistan Region has is the oil and gas question. Oil was first produced here when we had the top leadership of the Kurdistan government. Our big dream was to build a strong economy for the Kurdistan Region through oil and other natural resources. Unfortunately, oil sales are not transparent nowadays. The oil question is one of the main reasons behind the problems and struggles the Kurdistan Region is facing.
There have recently been a number of meetings among top-ranking PUK officials. Can you reassure the people and the PUK fans that your problems are being settled?
Our efforts to resolve PUK’s internal problems are ongoing. We all know that the strength and effectiveness of the PUK will greatly impact any settlement to the internal state of Kurdistan. Our disagreements are on the political weight of the PUK in the region and executing its by-laws and disciplines.
In the past, you endorsed PUK’s second deputy Barham Salih for some high positions in Baghdad, and even once said that he was the best candidate for President of Iraq. Do you still have the same support for him?
I support Dr. Barham Salih even more. It is my duty to support all the competent youth who work for the future and want to serve our nation.
Kosrat Rasul’s Profile
Born on July 1, 1952 in Shewashok village near the Kurdish town
Joined the Kurdistan Students Union in 1968
Joined Kurdistan Ranjdaran Group in 1975
Completed institute of agriculture in Bulgaria in 1976
Arrested by the Iraqi Baath regime on May 11, 1977 and released
in September the same year
Appointed Head of Kurdistan Ranjdaran Group’s Erbil office
Elected as leadership member of the PUK in 1984
Became a Peshmerga on August 14, 1984, and then head of the
PUK’s Erbil Center
Tasked by Kurdistan Front with leading the uprising in Erbil in
Elected Member of Parliament in 1992
Appointed Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government
Appointed Prime Minister of Sulaimani’s Kurdistan Regional
Became the PUK deputy in 2006
Appointed to be the Kurdistan Region’s first vice president