Kurds in Erbil wave the Kurdistan flag in defiance of Baghdad. Photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - As relations between Erbil and Baghdad continue to sour, some Kurdish leaders speak of an inevitable divorce from Iraq to establish an independent Kurdish state.
“By all standards, the Kurdistan Region has the right to become a sovereign state,” said Ali Bapir, leader of the Kurdistan Islamic League (Komal), at a press conference last week.
Bapir’s comments, which he called a road map, came just hours after Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani told Sky News Arabia that, “A Kurdish state is on the way.”
Bapir said that a committee within the party has been studying the ways and possibilities of a Kurdish state.
“At this stage, we have an opportunity to prepare the ground toward creating a Kurdish state,” he told reporters. “Therefore, Komal will adopt this goal into its strategic agenda and exhaust its political, diplomatic and humanitarian efforts to reach it.”
The main Kurdish parties have raised their rhetoric about going independent, complaining about Baghdad’s repeated breaches of the Iraqi constitution. In the meantime, some have said they would seek to change the nature of relations with Iraq from federalism into a confederation, as a way to end the historical troubled relations with successive regimes in Baghdad.
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, whose leader Jalal Talabani continues to be the Iraqi president despite his hospitalization since Dec 2012, has also raised the question of confederation in campaigns for the April 30 polls. “Implementation of constitution or confederation,” reads an election poster of the PUK.
Bapir, whose party is competing in both the Iraqi legislative and Kurdistan provincial polls that run simultaneously, summarized the roadmap into three main points: First, overcoming the barriers that have been holding back the Kurds from reaching this dream; second, presenting the view of Islamic political parties about self-determination for Kurdistan; finally, outlining the mechanisms to reach this goal.
When asked whether the Kurdish political parties are ready for this challenging move when they cannot even come to an agreement about forming the new government, Bapir said: “If we were a sovereign state where no political parties believed the ministries of Peshmarga, natural resources and finance belong to them, the formation of the government would have been a piece a cake.”
The Komal leader said the roadmap would be presented to the Kurdistan Region president, and the authorities, in detail.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has locked in several serious issues that include oil, budget, Kurdish Peshmarga forces and the authority of the Kurdish Region to conduct its own affairs. Barzani has dismissed Baghdad’s claims that the problems between the two sides are about oil and gas. He said that authorities in Baghdad want to treat the autonomous Kurdistan Region as a province, which is unacceptable.
The idea of declaring a Kurdish state might be easier said than done, especially given the fact that vast areas of disputed land claimed by both Baghdad and the KRG, still lie outside the boundaries of the Kurdistan Region.
Rudaw spoke with a number of people on the streets of Erbil, who said that it would not be fair to Kurds living in those areas if Erbil declared independence and left them out.
The so-called “disputed territories” include most of Kirkuk province and parts of Nineveh and Diyala.
In response to Kurdish threats of separating from Iraq, Iraqi MPs in Baghdad said that if the Kurds go ahead then Article 140 of the constitution, which aims to decide the fate of the disputed territories, will automatically become irrelevant, and the Kurds will have no right to seek its implementation.