“The first capital we are going to talk with is Baghdad. Baghdad is important for us. We want to do it in an amicable way. We want to add to the stability of the area and Kurdistan is the anchor of stability,” said Hawrami. “It's time for the world to realize that a failed system needs a review.” Photo: Rudaw
WASHINGTON— The head of Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Foreign Relations, Hemen Hawrani, told a panel in Washington Wednesday that the process of Kurdistan’s independence is ongoing and that Erbil is seeking an “amicable divorce” from Baghdad, which he argued would contribute to the stability in the region.
“This[independence] is a process that is happening and it's going to happen. The referendum will be held very soon, I mean in less than two years. It will be for all Iraqi Kurdistan citizens,” said Hawrami in a panel at the Middle East Institute in Washington. “Frankly speaking, Iraq is broken.”
Hawrami added that Kurds will talk to Baghdad for a peaceful separation, arguing that the current system of governance in the Middle East had failed and a new system based on the socio-ethnic realities should be the premise for a new map of the region.
“The first capital we are going to talk with is Baghdad. Baghdad is important for us. We want to do it in an amicable way. We want to add to the stability of the area and Kurdistan is the anchor of stability,” said Hawrami. “It's time for the world to realize that a failed system needs a review.”
On the participation of Kurds in the current Iraqi government, Hawrami said that there is representation, but no power-sharing in Baghdad, citing as example the exclusive Shiite control over Iraq’s Defense Ministry with marginal Kurdish and Sunni presence.
“Unfortunately, his [PM Abadi] government has not fulfilled the agreement and the promises we have agreed on and he has not fulfilled the agreements that they had with the Sunnis as well,” he explained.
On the budgetary and energy disputes between Erbil and Baghdad, Hawrami said that the Kurds fulfilled their obligation of exporting 550K barrels of oil per day for several months, but that Baghdad didn’t send Kurdistan Region’s 17 percent budget share.
“Baghdad claims they don't have cash, but they have cash for PMU [Shiite militias]. Each member of PMU gets $800. There is money for them, but not for the Peshmerga,” he said.
The KDP official said that Kurdistan Region was on the path to financial independence to help its citizens and more than 1.4 million refugees, and he urged Baghdad not to interfere in these efforts.
Hawrami rejected any notion that Kurds were exploiting the war against ISIS to make territorial expansion, saying, “We have not carried out territorial expansion. It was Maliki’s army, as a friend of mine described, that peacefully handed over territories to ISIS. Maliki’s army surrendered to ISIS and they withdraw from all those territories, if we were not there, ISIS would have taken Kirkuk and other areas.”
“If we leave those areas, who is going to fill in? ISIS?” he asked.
Hawrami added that the Kurds were not fighting ISIS to promote their independence project. “Fighting ISIS does not mean that Kurdistan is fighting for independence. They are two different issues.”
The KDP diplomat also warned that defeating ISIS would not mean the end of terrorism in the region.
“Even If ISIS could be defeated in the longer term, and it can be defeated, that will not be the end of terrorism in the Middle East,” he maintained. “ISIS is a symptom of a bigger illness in the Middle East. The illness is the failed system that we have-- that the borders of the Middle East don't reflect realities on the ground- do not reflect the wish and will of the people.”
Hawrami argued that Iraq’s Sunni areas suffered major setbacks due to lack of leadership, adding that the Sunni community is now concerned about the post-ISIS era.
“The question and concerns Sunnis have are between [Shiite] militias and ISIS, which one is better?” said Hawrami. “The best thing is to give them assurances that whenever their areas are liberated, you govern and protect your areas.”
Hawrami said that Erbil could help the Sunnis for a better future once Kurdistan breaks away from Iraq. “The most important thing for us is to act for stability in the area.”
The KDP official also encouraged Washington to pursue an independent policy towards the Kurds, and in the meantime recognize the actual redrawing of borders on the ground by Iraq’s different communities.
“The United States is an indispensable ally for us and we are not going to do anything without consultation,” he said. “But for the United States, the fact is Iraq on the ground is now divided. So any policy to deny this reality and this fragmented Iraq is not helping the plans for more stability in the region.”
“In the Shiite areas, Shiites are fighting to draw their own borders, and we are fighting to defend our borders as well,” Hawrami added. “So we have to collectively work with the Sunnis to protect their borders.”