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US defense intelligence calls 'Kurdish independence' inevitable

By Rudaw 24/5/2017
Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on worldwide issues. Photo: AP
Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on worldwide issues. Photo: AP

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) told senators during a hearing that the question of independence for the Kurdistan Region is to be expected, adding that resolving disagreements over the Kirkuk oil will be significant political challenges for the Iraqi government.

"Kurdish independence is on a trajectory where it is probably not if but when. And it will complicate the situation unless there's an agreement in Baghdad," Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, whose role is to provide intelligence assessments, said on Tuesday.

Stewart told the Senate's Armed Forces Committee that the ability of the Erbil and Baghdad to reach an understanding is essential to avoid renewed conflicts in the region.

"So this is a significant referendum that comes up in October this year," Stewart stated.

Authorities with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have announced their plan to hold a referendum this year.

"On 30 March, during my visit to Erbil, President [Masoud] Barzani stated the intention to hold a referendum on the status of the region in 2017. He added that while the aim was not to immediately declare independence, the result would show the world the will of the people," stated a quarterly Secretary-General report from Antonio Guterres to the UN Security Council.

The Kurdish Peshmerga forces supported by the US-led international coalition have played a major role in the war against ISIS in Iraq, securing the borders of the Kurdistan Region against the militant group.

In 2014, the Peshmerga also prevented the group from taking control of the oil rich region of Kirkuk when the Iraqi army fled conflicts from the incoming militants.

Although the Kurds have a historical claim over Kirkuk, Stewart said "Resolving the Kirkuk oil field and the revenues associated with the oil fields, resolving the ownership of the city of Kirkuk, will be significant political challenges for the Iraqi government."

Erbil has said the referendum is to cover nearly all disputed territories outside the administration of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in places such as Kirkuk, Shingal, Khanaqin and areas in Nineveh Plains which were liberated from ISIS militants over the past two years. 

“With regard to the disputed areas...those places from our perspective are Kurdistani places,” Rozh Nuri Shawes, a senior official from the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) told reporters after an April 2 meeting between Kurdish officials and foreign missions in Erbil. 

Hoshyar Zebari, who is a senior member of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), and longest serving Iraqi FM since the fall of the former Iraqi regime 14 years ago, later clarified to Rudaw that should the councils from the cities and provinces that come under the disputed areas call on the Kurdistan Region to hold the independence referendum, the Kurdish government will act on their request, and conduct the referendum.

The issue of the disputed areas, otherwise called Kurdistani areas outside the Kurdistan Region, was put into the Iraqi constitution after the removal of the Baath party in Iraq. It concerns areas claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad, such as Kirkuk and some areas in Nineveh. 


Kurdish and Iraqi officials have been engaged in a continued dialogue to resolve outstanding disagreements.


PublishMeFam | 24/5/2017
As soon as those people start meddling into Middle East, a war is about to happen. This war will be against the Kurds, sadly thats how it goes. Kurds are only pawn in this geopolitical game.Do not fall for their games because you're surrounded by sharks.
Dutchman | 24/5/2017
After these words I like everything about general Stewart, even his hairdress.
Flaminco | 24/5/2017
There's no issue to discuss or resolve when it comes to Kerkik, it's a Kurdish province period, it's not a matter having "historical claims" it never turned into an Arab province. Yes the Arab Baathists tried to alter the demography by ethnically cleansing tens of thousands of Kurds from the province from the 60's to the 90's but they failed. We're talking about a few decades ago not hundreds of years ago and even with the tens of thousands of illegal Arab settlers remaining Kerkuk is still has a Kurdish majority. Furthermore Kurdistan region has provided most of the security and services to the province since 2003 so I don't know what we're suppose to resolve?. If Baghdad asks for half the revenue from Kerkuk as a condition then we will demand half the revenue from Basra, it's that simple.
FAUthman | 24/5/2017
And here it is from the US: "Kurdish independence inevitable". Now we know where we are going, the stars have aligned, the path forward is clear and all Kurdish hands will be on board, the doubters and the nay voices will fall to the wayside. This is the best nesws since arming the Kurds by US/UK/Germany was also made clear. One can only conclude that US faith in maintaining Iraq unity has dwindled.
Garish | 24/5/2017
"disputed areas" again, so the only question one needs to ask is WHY would Bagdad refuse to hold a simple referendum in these areas so we can resolve it in a civilized peaceful way? what could be the reason? they agrees to do it didn't they? even put it in the toilet paper they call the 'Iraqi constitution'. 10 God damn years has passed, should we wait another 10 years on Bagdad?

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