Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi speaking at the Fifth Annual Sulaimani Forum at the American University of Sulaimani on Wednesday. Photo: PM Media Office
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi expressed optimism for the unity of the nation post-ISIS, saying disputed areas will become agreed areas.
“They said Iraq will never be back, it had already been divided. You know that there was a place where the [Kurdistan Region] was in control, and ISIS was between them and us. In the provinces of Anbar, Saladin, Diyala, and Mosul, ISIS was in control in those areas. And even the land road between Erbil and Baghdad was cut by ISIS. They said the breakup had already happened,” Abadi said during his address at the Fifth Annual Sulaimani Forum at the American University of Sulaimani on Wednesday.
“But now, we did not go back. We made progress forward with more unity. The Peshmerga are fighting together with us. Nobody in their right mind would have imagined that. And today, we are trying, instead of the disputed areas – a negative term – we will turn it into the agreed areas so that we rebuild and rule these areas together, God willing.”
Abadi said that unity imposed on Iraq from outside the country will not work, adding that the current unity in Iraq is “unity by the will of its people.”
The disputed areas are regions described by Article 140 of Iraq’s constitution where both Erbil and Baghdad claim control. In the fight to oust ISIS from Iraq, Kurds have brought the majority of these disputed areas under their control. Kurdish authorities say they have extended their territories by as much as 40 percent since 2014.
This situation on the ground and recent pro-independence rhetoric from Kurdish leaders stand in stark contrast to Abadi’s comments.
"The desire to keep the united Iraq is there, but the reality is that today Iraq is already divided by unsolvable problems,” President Masoud Barzani said in a recent interview with Italian newspaper La Stampa when asked whether Iraq will come out of the war against ISIS as a united state.
“Too many massacres have occurred, leaving no room for reconciliation,” he said, noting that Iraq is divided along sectarian lines with 1,400 years of Sunni-Shia fighting.
"The independence of Kurdistan would create an area of stability in this region. We have already seen too much blood and injustice,” Barzani said, adding that it was time to find a “new formula for co-existence.”
Speaking to the BBC in December last year, Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani described Iraq as a “failed state.”
He said that polarization was the norm and the central government had “failed to be a fair governor for all.”
According to Talabani, the process of declaring independence begins with discussion, “and that discussion has begun.”