The people of Kurdistan have not yet decided whether or not we want independence. But this question will be settled when the people of Kurdistan go to vote on September 25. So the current stances taken by regional or world countries towards Kurdistan’s independence should not be considered as official.
International recognition will become important after the Kurdistan Region decides this question and its political leadership enforces the verdict of its people by declaring a federal state for Kurdistan. The established norm is to base international relations on appropriate interests. This is the same for Kurdistan and the greater world. Countries deeming a state for Kurdistan to be dangerous will oppose it, and those deeming it beneficial will recognize it.
The state of Israel was established in 1948 and still a number of Arab and Islamic countries have not recognized it because they have seen it as a strategic danger to themselves. However, countries which had a stake in the state established official relations with Israel early on. Even countries which didn’t have any interests in the establishment of Israel, nor feared its foundation, recognized and are dealing with Israel just to meet international principles. It will be the same for a future Kurdistani state.
Instead of anticipating what the stance of these countries might take with regards to independence, the people of Kurdistan should figure in what respect their state will pose a danger or be in the interests of these countries. If we look at a future Kurdistani state from this perspective, we will know who will be with us and who will be against us. And if we see an untoward stance taken by a country, it will be our duty to explain things to other countries and reassure them.
Thus far, the people of Kurdistan have misunderstood the stance of Iran. The common understanding is that Iran is against independence and a state for Kurdistan. Additionally, if there is a belief in Iranian strategic centers that Kurdistan will pose a danger to them, they too should rectify this misunderstanding. If the name ‘The Kurdistan Region’ changes to ‘The State of Kurdistan’, what actual dangers will this pose to Iran?
Under the name ‘The Kurdistan Region,’ Kurdistan with its current border stretching from Shingal to Gulala is now of great benefit and interest to Iran. Why would these interests turn into dangers to Iran if its name changes to ‘The State of Kurdistan?’ In what respect will Kurdistan pose such a danger to Iran that it is willing to oppose independence for Kurdistan?
The Kurdistan Region proved to Iran over the past two decades that this homeland is safe for Iran regardless of its name. Iran shares a long border with Kurdistan, because of this there is peace and security deep inside Iran.
Iran has had many problems with regional and other world countries over the past two decades. Had it not been due to the Kurdistan Region, had the Kurdistan Region allowed it, numerous contact channels would be built between the foes of Iran and those in Iran’s Kurdistan Province. Many countries could be meddling in Iranian internal affairs, in the same way Iran has been interfering in the affairs of many countries in the region. But the Kurdistan Region has not opened its doors to any of the foes of Iran to build these contact channels.
There are currently international economic sanctions against Iran, and I expect these embargoes will intensify in the future, given the Trump administration’s rhetoric and a US congress largely of the same belief. Over the past 25 years, the borders of the Kurdistan Region were open to Iran which was getting many essential goods from Kurdistan’s markets. The Kurdistan Region has also been a big market for Iranian goods. This trade will become more significant to Iran in the future.
From the time Imam Hussein was killed, all the Shiites of the world currently led by Iran believe they have been dealt with unfairly. They think the Iraqi territory is theirs but has been taken away from them. Many sacred Shiite sites are located in Arab areas in southern Iraq. Simply, Iran wants Iraq to be a Shiite country and a center for all the Shiites of the world.
The role played by the Sunnis in the country had to be undermined in order to realize this. The collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime paved the way to them to do this, especially after the United States withdrew from the country. The emergence of ISIS and its aftermath served the Shiite agenda. But a big obstacle for changing the identity of Iraq to a Shiite Arab country is the unity of the Kurdistan Region and Iraq.
The Shiites and Iran should know that Kurdistan is a big obstacle for turning Iraq into a Shiite country and completing the “Shiite crescent.” Kurdistan has to some extent left Baghdad to the Shiites because of its wish to declare independence. If Kurdistan stays with Iraq, Baghdad will not be left for the Shiites alone. Sunnis in Iraqi now know that the Kurds are leaving them and understand that they alone cannot fight the Shiites.
Kurdistan remaining with Iraq will create a bigger obstacle for Iran because the Sunnis will again be strengthened. Iran is a big country that has designed its strategy meticulously. It can see the interests that stem from Kurdistan’s independence. It also understands things can reverse course if it prevents independence.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rudaw.