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Sunni politician not against Kurdistan referendum in contrast to Shiites

By 13/6/2017
Kurdish and Iraqi flags fly side-by-side at the Makhmour front, south of Erbil. Photo: Farzin Hassan/Rudaw.
Kurdish and Iraqi flags fly side-by-side at the Makhmour front, south of Erbil. Photo: Farzin Hassan/Rudaw.

By Nahro Mohammed


ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A Sunni leader in the Iraqi parliament has not opposed the Kurdistan Region's decision to hold a referendum  adding that splintering requires "different mechanisms," as Shiite leaders continue to strongly be against the move.

“What the Kurdistan Region is doing is just a referendum, not splintering from Iraq because referendum and separation are two different questions,” Raad Dahlaki of the Sunni Forces Coalition told Rudaw.

He expressed that self-determination is a typical right of the nations of the world, but should be within the context of the constitution.

“The referendum is more like an announcement or the expression of a stance, not splintering as it requires a set of different mechanisms,” Dahlaki added. “Such a process needs a groundwork and that groundwork is an agreement on the disputed areas so as to avoid bigger problems in the future.”

The statement by the Sunni lawmaker is more open than that of his Shiite counterparts.

A member of the State of Law Faction in the Iraqi parliament led by former PM Nouri al-Maliki who still wields immense power in the country believes the Iraqi constitution doesn’t allow unilateral separation from Iraq and that every party must commit to it.

“The separation of the Kurdistan Region will put burdens on the region itself,” Sadiq Liban told Rudaw

He cited the emergence of “opposition from the neighboring countries," if the referendum is held.

Liban also said the internal atmosphere of the Kurdistan Region is not suitable for such process as “there are some parties inside the Kurdistan Region opposing the move and that separation will be only in favor of the foes of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.”

Asked to explain who the foes are, Liban said “this is Israel and other rivals who have a project to divide Iraq and the region and it is them behind referendum and the separation of the Kurdistan Region.”

Liban’s remarks are more foreign-focused than those made by his parliamentary faction head, Ali Adeeb, on Saturday
Adeeb had said “holding referendum is a unilateral decision and the Kurdistan Region has made it without the federal government’s consent, adding it to their past unilateral decisions including selling oil, taking taxes and tariffs on the cross borders, signing oil contracts even without the consent of the Kurdistan parliament.”

On many occasions Shiite politicians have expressed sympathy for Kurds, but when it comes to building their own state, they show strong opposition, notably through their influential leader Ammar al-Hakim and his party members.

Mohammed Masoudi, an MP from Hakim’s Muatn Faction, echoed the sentiment that the Kurdistan Region should remain as an inseparable part of the country, though they believe in self-determination for any nation.
“The Kurdistan Region is part of Iraq,” Masoudi said. “As Iraqis, we will not accept the independence of the Kurdistan Region and we are determined to preserve the integrity of Iraq’s land.”

Masoudi urged Kurdish President Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) to get on the same page as other parties in the Kurdistan Region. 

“The [timing] for referendum and independence of the Kurdistan Region is not suitable, the Kurdistan Region does not have a statehood basis, so it creates larger problems for its population. Barzani and Kurdish brothers have to investigate this process more precisely and make a right decision on it.”

The Muatn Faction leader, Hakim, has long stood against Kurdish independence. He said in late April that an independent Kurdistan will create a “political tsunami” whose waves will be felt across the entire region and no country except Israel will recognize it if declared today.

Another Shiite bloc in the Iraqi parliament piled on.

Ammar Taama, head of the Fadhila Faction, says the aspirations for independence have “no basis and is against the constitution,” and therefore their faction is also “against the Kurdistan Region referendum." 

He added there were Kurdish parties not serious on the referendum which had boycotted the independence referendum meeting on June 7.

“Therefore this move will deepen internal crisis of the Kurdistan Region,” Taama said in reference to the Change Movement (Gorran) and Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal) turning down a request from President Barzani to attend the meeting.

He also believes Middle Eastern leaders will make it difficult for Kurdish independence to succeed.

“The neighboring countries are against holding referendum by the Kurdistan Region, therefore it is impossible for this process to prevail,” Tamima said.

Ayad Allawi, the president of the mostly-Shiite Iraqi National Coalition (Watani List), warned Kurds “not to ponder separation” from Iraq and for this purpose he is going to visit Erbil to discuss the referendum plan.

Since the declaration of the referendum, neighboring Iran and Turkey have both opposed the referendum.

The Turkish foreign ministry has said that a decision by the Kurdistan Region to hold an independence referendum on Sept 25 is a “grave mistake” and against Turkey's Iraq policy that seeks the preservation of the territorial integrity of that country.

While the Kurdistan Region’s neighbors to the east’s position “is to support Iraq’s territorial integrity and unity.”

"The Kurdistan Region is part of the Republic of Iraq. Unilateral decisions and outside the legal and national framework, in particular the constitution, particularly in the current complicated situation of Iraq and the region, and the plans of those who mean harm to Iraq will definitely lead to new problems in this country,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wrote in a statement on Saturday.

President Barzani held a meeting with political parties in the Kurdistan Region on June 7 when it was announced the region would hold an independence referendum on September 25 that would also include "the Kurdistani areas outside the region's administration.”

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