Kurdish leaders appear to have reached a point where they believe that full independence might be the best and only solution for the country’s five million Kurds. Photo: Rudaw
By Ghazi Harith
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Kurdistan Region appears to have set the ball rolling toward independence from Iraq.
The first signs of this emerged last week when the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced -- despite threats from Baghdad -- the sale of one million barrels of Kurdish oil that had been stored at the Turkish port of Ceyhan.
With this move Kurdish authorities in Erbil not only defied Iraq’s central government, they also ignored warnings from the United States, which has consistently stood against Kurdistan selling its oil without Baghdad’s consent.
America’s main concern is Iraq’s territorial integrity: Washington fears that economic independence would lead the Kurds toward declaring independence from Iraq and dividing the country.
These concerns notwithstanding, Kurdish leaders -- among them Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani -- have said time and again that they cannot tolerate Baghdad’s hostile actions and constant blackmail of the Kurds.
Earlier this year, Baghdad cut the autonomous region’s budget, depriving more than one million civil servants of their monthly salaries. Erbil regarded this as “a violation of the constitution, and blamed the maneuver on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
After 10 years of disagreements with Baghdad, Kurdish leaders appear to have reached a point where they believe that full independence might be the best and only solution for the country’s five million Kurds.
In Paris on Friday, Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani told his French counterpart and members of the French government that if Baghdad fails to change its current policies towards the Kurds, the Kurds “have other options on the table” to emerge from the crisis. Observers believe that “other options” is a couched reference to breaking away from Iraq.
Two weeks ago the Kurdish president had already reiterated to leaders of Kurdistan’s political parties that, if Maliki remains Iraq’s premier for a third term, the Kurds will hold a referendum on seeking independence.
Nonetheless, the Kurds are busy forming a special committee to hold talks with Iraqi groups on their participation in the next Iraqi government and parliament, following the April 30 elections.
On the other hand, the Kurdish president’s presence in Europe and the clear message he delivered in France, as well as the Kurdish prime minister’s visit to London last week, are seen by some as a campaign to seek international support for Kurdish independence.