Nouri al-Maliki, vice president of Iraq and former prime minister. Photo: AFP/file
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurds have already sealed their fate when they accepted the constitution of a federal Iraq and they cannot now change their minds, said former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
"Kurdistan cannot become an independent state from the point of view of the law or from the point of view of the constitution. The Kurds determined their fate when they voted for the constitution and decided that Iraq is a federative state. They do not have the right to determine their fate every day,” Maliki told Sputnik news in an interview.
“A referendum on independence may take place, but Kurdistan will be unable to secede," he predicted.
Maliki is largely disliked in the Kurdistan Region. His term of office from 2006 to 2014 was marked by increasingly sour relations with the government in Erbil that culminated in the decision to cut Kurdistan’s share of the Iraqi budget in early 2014. Kurds blame Maliki for playing a major role in their current financial woes.
He has been frequently critical of Masoud Barzani, describing the Kurdistan president as a tribal leader and has said that if Barzani continued to violate “red lines,” he should be deterred by force if necessary.
In his interview with Sputnik, Maliki stated that the Peshmerga are not a real force and implied that Kurdistan would not be able to defend its borders.
“Masoud Barzani is a dreamer,” Maliki said. “The official state borders are drawn in blood, he knows Peshmerga did not play any role in the fight against ISIS, that Erbil would have been given up to ISIS if it were not for the help of Iraqi, Iranian and US aviation. They have no real force.”
After Maliki made similarly inflammatory statements against the Kurdistan Region in May, Barzani hit back, saying that stronger enemies had tested themselves against the Kurds, “but finally knelt in the face of the will of Kurdistan’s nation.”
The former Iraqi premier, a Shiite, remains an influential person in Iraqi politics as head of the State of Law Coalition, which also includes current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
The Kurdistan Region will hold a referendum on independence on September 25. The vote will also be held in Kurdistani, or disputed, areas.
Kurdish leaders have argued that they gave Iraq a chance for democracy, pluralism, and a constitution that would guarantee all people’s rights after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Yet years later Iraq is still violating the constitution and the most important pillars of federalism, revenue-sharing and border demarcation, are being ignored.
They say that the historic vote is also justified as a correction of Baghdad’s failure to resolve the issues of the disputed areas. Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution calls for the normalization of disputed areas to be followed by a referendum allowing citizens of these areas to decide if they want to join the Kurdistan Region or remain with Baghdad. This article should have been implemented by 2007, under Maliki’s tenure.