The Kurdistan Region in will hold a referendum on independence from Iraq on 25 September. In this podcast series, Zana Kurda, the director of European Affairs at the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Mission to the EU, presents the Kurdish perspective and explains why the Kurds are determined to hold the referendum.
No, Kurds believe it will not. This is an argument that has been brought up frequently in recent times. While the Kurds understand those concerns, they believe it is not a well-founded argument.
First of all, it is only about the Kurdistan Region in Iraq. Secondly, this argument implies that the current Iraq somehow contributes to the regional stability in the Middle East, which one really could argue the opposite. In fact, one could ask if Iraq has ever been a source of stability in the Middle East. If you look at the history from an objective point of view, the answer seems to be no.
Iraq fought a bloody war with Iran. Iraq invaded Kuwait, threatened to invade Saudi Arabia and Jordan, had shaky relationships with Turkey and Syria, and Iraq also played a very negative role in the Arab-Israeli conflict often perpetrating attacks on Israel. The current Iraq is not in the state of being a military threat to its neighbors any longer, but Iraq continues to be a regional threat in a different way. And, again, it all has to do with the fundamental problems mentioned earlier. The current Iraq has been a battlefield in the regional Shia-Sunni conflict and as result of this the country has become a breeding place for terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, ISIS as well as recently some extremist elements within the Shia forces.
Kurds often point to their achievements in the last decade and their contribution to regional and global security as well as on the humanitarian field; Kurdistan’s Peshmerga has been among the most effective fighting forces in the war against ISIS, while the Kurdistan region has been hosting almost 2 million displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees. Over the last decade, Kurdistan has manifested itself as a constructive partner of the international community, Kurds argue.
The KRG has also reached out to its neighbors Turkey and Iran in a positive way. The KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani has been known to have played a mediator between the Turkish government and the PKK for a long time. Those efforts nearly led to a permanent settlement of the Kurdish issue in Turkey. However, the war in Syria and the lack of commitment of the two rival parties has led to resurgence of violence. The Kurdish problem in Turkey has not, however, impacted the relations between the KRG and Turkey. Both Turkey and Iran have massive investments in Kurdistan Region’s economy and they are unlikely to risk their economic interests in the KRG.
Based on that, Kurds believe the claim that an independent Kurdistan would destabilize the region stems from a rather ill-informed view of the historical facts as well as present-day reality in Iraq, while it also disregards, they say, the constructive role of the Kurds in countering many challenges in the region.