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Kurdistan has strong case for independence, argue int’l experts

By Rekar Aziz 25/5/2017
The Kurdistan Region intends to hold a referendum on independence later this year. Photo: Rudaw
The Kurdistan Region intends to hold a referendum on independence later this year. Photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Gaining recognition as a sovereign state will be key for Kurdistan independence, but the Region has a strong case to make, argued international experts. 

International and Kurdish experts gathered in Erbil this week to discuss independence in the Kurdistan Region at a conference hosted by the University of Kurdistan Hawler titled Iraqi Kurdistan at a Crossroads.

Gaining international recognition as an independent state is straight forward if the home state, Iraq in this case, permits independence, explained Dr. Ryan Griffiths, senior lecturer at the University of Sydney, Australia. 

“But in the absence of that, you need to get key states to support you. And that becomes a very difficult political and diplomatic process. And it involves all the key actors that everybody’s familiar with, including Turkey, and Iran, Iraq, the United States. Getting those actors involved and prepared to recognize Iraqi Kurdistan I think is the key,” Griffiths said. 

Should Iraq dissolve as a state, Kurdistan’s case for recognition as an independent state is much stronger, said Dr. Thomas Grant, international law expert based at Wolfson College, Cambridge, who argued that Iraq is beginning to look like the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. 

The central government has failed to deal with the constitutional issues of revenue sharing and internal boundary disputes and, in the first phases of the war against ISIS, it failed to provide security. The only organized military force fighting ISIS at the beginning was the Peshmerga, Grant explained. 

“If you have a state that cannot handle its fiscal relations, it cannot handle internal disputes, and it cannot provide security, those are very serious deficits. It starts to look more like a dissolution of a state.”

This general crisis within Iraq must be taken into account, he stressed, but added that “It’s a difficult diplomatic campaign that lies ahead.”

Dr. Thomas Grant, international law expert based at Wolfson College, Cambridge

In its negotiations with Baghdad amid what maybe the dissolution of Iraq, Kurds must not be their own worst enemies, warned Gary Kent, director of the UK parliament’s all-party group on the Kurdistan Region and Rudaw columnist. 

The separation of two entities that have been together for a century is complex with many factors to consider, including oil, water, security, and the economy, and these must be carefully addressed, he explained. 

“If the Kurdistan Region is independent, its best friend, its nearest neighbour, its closest economic partner will be Iraq.”

The time is right, however, for Kurds to push for independence as they have proven themselves on the world stage, he said. 

“A forced marriage, an arranged marriage has failed. An amicable divorce may lead the way to friendship. I think that given that the Kurds have demonstrated how important they are in defeating extremism, in upholding religious freedoms, all the different religions that are here, the importance of the Peshmerga in defeating jihadism, all these make a lot of people in the West very much more open to the idea of Kurds.”

Gary Kent, director of the UK parliament’s all-party group on the Kurdistan Region

Dr. Kirill Vertyaev, director of the Department of Kurdish Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that Kurdistan independence has strong support in Russia, which has a long history of ties with Kurds.  

“In Russia, the idea of Kurdish independence has very, very strong support among different people, mostly of leftist orientation,” he said, adding that this support is not only for Kurds in Iraq but also Rojava, northern Syria.  

He dismissed the idea that Russian-Kurdish relations may be negatively affected if the United States were to establish a military base in Kurdistan, saying he believed ties between the two super powers will improve in the future. 

However, he argued, Turkey is likely to strongly oppose a permanent American military presence so close to its borders. 

Among Kurds, the current debate is whether or not parliament must be reactivated first in order for the legislative body to launch the referendum process. 

Safeen Dizayee, spokesperson for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), said that first the political leaders must solve the issues that led to the shutdown of parliament in 2015. Reactivating parliament will come afterwards, he said, warning against putting the cart before the horse. 

Safeen Dizayee, spokesperson for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)


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Stuart | 26/5/2017
If Kurdistan becomes independent this year, Ankara will be the best trade partner, not Bagdad.
Muraz Adzhoev | 26/5/2017
There have been no "home states" for the Kurdish people in above mentioned Middle East countries. Even federative Iraq has not become "home state" for the people of Sothern Kurdistan as well as for all other components of artificially created country, because of the lack of fundamental preconditions for peaceful co-existence, partnership, friendship and cooperation. Baghdad, the Iraqi authorities in particular have not been willing to respect and to implement even the key norms and principles of the constitution. So Iraq is deadly and tragically failed already. Only sovereign independence of Kurdistan, which is an inevitable invent, will provide a chance for the rest of Arab Iraq to survive somehow, establish its own statehood. The same scenario is appropriatly adequate for tragically failed Syria. Which means that Western Kurdistan most likely will be reintegrated with independent Southern Kurdistan despite all efforts that have been undertaken by enemies, especially by Iranian regime and also by traitors like PKK-PYD to prevent establishment of sovereign Kurdistan anywhere in the Middle East.
Ashur | 26/5/2017
Which "kurdistan" last time I checked the map it was Assyria and Iraq bit kurdi.
dire straights | 26/5/2017
This British designed banana republic 'Iraq' has never in it's miserable 90 year old history functioned properly as a state. Coup after coupe, dictatorship after dictatorship, rebellion after rebellion. The British come along and cramped together 3 different communities and a dozen small ones from parts (yes not even whole) of 5 different Ottoman vilayats (states) at gun point and named it 'Iraq', only because they wanted to secure their trade and oil flow from their other big colony India. No segment of Iraqi population rose up and worked or fought for creating this artificial country and no amount of money or glue in the world will keep it together either. Any fix will be temporary and short-lived
Ashur | 26/5/2017
kurdistan does not exist its Assyria;

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Congrats, and best wishes. Hope you win the contest.
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