Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. File photo: AFP
Mr. Haider al-Abadi, I hope you will be different from all other Iraqi leaders, and think about the wellbeing of your people. Maliki and Saddam Hussein and others before them brought Iraq to the situation it is in now by spending all their money and resources on the military and on talking tough. They treated and handled every issue in the country from a security perspective and with a soldier’s mentality.
Now that the Kurds are voting for independence and want to separate from Iraq, don't make the same mistake and begin issuing threats. I say this not for the sake of the Kurds, but for the sake of the Iraqi people.
If the Kurds separate from Iraq, your country will save billions of dollars in expenditure and budget that is Kurdistan’s share. You will not need to maintain a huge army and spend billions of dollars to rule the Kurdish north or keep the country together by force. Your provinces in the south are desperate for that money.
Countless wars under Saddam Hussein and years of sectarian violence since his fall, daily car bombs and explosions, and ISIS have destroyed Iraq and it will take many years to give it a respectable facelift. Please focus Iraq’s money and manpower and resources on rebuilding the country instead of taking the same path as other leaders who are willing to sacrifice the lives of thousands of young men just to prove their own leadership.
If you want to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis and be remembered forever, then instead of talking tough against the Kurds, be the first leader to overhaul your country’s education system, build good roads and bridges and hospitals. Fighting the Kurds or trying to prevent them from separation will not do anyone any good. But letting them go in an amicable way and concentrating your attention on making Iraq a modern state with good public services will be good for all. And you’ll be the first wise Iraqi leader.
It has been years since I was in Najaf, Karbala, Basra and other southern provinces, but I doubt much has changed since then. I still see pictures on social media of garbage piles in the street, broken sewers, collapsed bridges, dangerous roads and flooded homes. Those are what most ordinary Iraqis want fixed. That is their main concern, not whether the Kurdish region stays with Iraq or separates.
Think about it economically. Keeping Kurdistan with Iraq wins you or your people nothing. Baghdad has to give the Kurds 17 percent of its budget, medical supplies, employment opportunities and arms, etc. With the Kurds gone you’ll get to keep all that. And if Iraq is thinking about using the military to prevent a Kurdish separation, then please don’t. From the days of Saddam Hussein until now, young men have been dying in different wars. It is time someone said no more war and that someone could be you. Iraqi families don’t want their sons killed anymore. Don’t listen to religious clerics or political leaders who thrive on conflict and bloodshed.
Threats, wars and the military will solve nothing. If not today, a hundred years from now, the Kurds will still separate from Iraq. So why don’t you become the first Iraqi leader to admit this reality and make Kurdistan’s separation the start of a new era for Iraq. Iraq needs someone to put the brakes on people’s misery and suffering and lead them on a path of reconstruction, civil society and peace.