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Rudaw

Opinion

Two steps forward, one step back in Kurdistan

By GARY KENT 26/7/2018
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The APPG's report on its delegation in May to Kurdistan and to Baghdad has been published. It is a lengthy document that examines Baghdad's reaction to the referendum, the resurgence of Kurdistan, how robust pragmatism is needed in Erbil-Baghdad relations based on the constitution, how the KRG should accelerate internal reform, and how the UK can help boost Kurdistani capacity.

It makes several recommendations to the UK government and will be sent to ministers, diplomats and others and is the basis of the APPG's engagement over the coming months, before a future delegation, possibly in the autumn. It can be read in full here.

Here is my summary. The Kurds in Iraq are amongst our foremost friends in the Middle East and have been to hell and back in the last four years but have survived. They were also decisive in defeating Daesh (ISIS) and remain crucial to our own national security because Daesh is still ideologically potent, and has not evaporated as a guerrilla force, which could morph into a new and even more vicious group.

The Kurds were entitled to hold a peaceful referendum on the principle of independence. Baghdad's vicious and violent reaction to a peaceful vote of intention made a mockery of the first article of the Iraqi constitution which insists that Iraq is a voluntary union: the Kurds can check out but never leave, it seems.

It is shameful that Baghdad opportunistically tried to dismantle the internationally recognised Kurdistan Regional Government and suffocate their economy. Baghdad failed and whilst I and others cannot forgive them for killing Peshmerga, senior leaders in Baghdad recognise the need to row back from violence and reset relations with the Kurds, although it should be based firmly on the federalism in the Iraqi constitution and the Kurds need robust pragmatism in dealing with Baghdad.

The report of our latest fact-finding delegation – the 15th in a decade – argues that the Kurds are geopolitically pivotal, with the expertise and experience to challenge extremism, and encourage peace-making. The Kurds are a bridge between Europe, Turkey and Iraq. They could again be a magnet for investment and through that to the wider market in Iraq. Kurdistan could be a base for those reconstructing Mosul. Kurds in Iraq could help ease antagonism between neighbouring governments and other Kurdistans.

The Kurds also know they need to reform their own systems, the fault lines and flaws of which have been cruelly exposed in recent years. Our latest report highlights the need for thorough reform of its top-heavy and oil dependent rentier economy. We say that Kurdistan needs to adopt a capitalist model with the balance between market and state and individual and collective rights suiting Kurdistani needs. A new tax system could include a wealth tax so that sacrifices are shared more equally and funds are raised for a welfare state.

We also argue that Kurdistan also relies too heavily on state employment, that the size of the state strangles independent private businesses, and that massive opportunities to develop agriculture, tourism, light industry and more have yet to gain traction.

In all this there is a major and mutually beneficial political and commercial role for the UK, which is keenly desired by the Kurds. It's a great symbol of the popular esteem for the UK that Kurdistani MPs have formed an all-party group on the UK, the first such group. They want MPs and others here to train their MPs and deepen their young democracy. We can also cultivate youth and student organisations.

Our initial audit of the British footprint in Kurdistan includes support for modernising the Peshmerga, more links between our universities, cultivating a film industry so Kurds can better tell their stories, and reforming the visa system for Kurds who need to come here for business and other purposes. The UK should organise an official trade mission to Kurdistan.

The report of the delegation, which included an observer from the Catholic Church in England and Wales, highlights Kurdistan's religious pluralism, which we say is all too rare throughout the Middle East and something which we should not take for granted.

Political engagement in the Middle East sounds alarms for many but it would be short-sighted to ignore the need to help reliable allies there stand on their own two feet. This enables them to avoid further conflicts that create refugee flows and destabilise the world economy. A dynamic and reforming Iraqi Kurdistan should be a major UK goal.

Gary Kent is the Secretary of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG). He writes this column for Rudaw in a personal capacity. The address for the all-party group is appgkurdistan@gmail.com. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rudaw.


Comments

 
Schkak | 26/7/2018
Kurdistan will become independant and will prevail . Thank you Mr kent.
FAUthman | 26/7/2018
Great column by Gary Kent. My few words of wisdom (for what they are worth) are these: There is a new Iraq in the making that is being shaped in my humble opinion by three recent seismic events that occurred within Iraq: 1- Kurdistan referendum 2- Iraqi parliamentary elections and the rise of Sadr 3- The protests of the south The old Iraq is gone! It is a new Iraq out there and intelligent Kurds are adjusting their thinking to this new Iraqi reality accordingly (read Hoshyar Zebari's comments). Kurdistan will benefit from all three milestone events (including the referendum and its aftermath): more US security support for the KRG (partly likely to counter Iran and to stabilize the region) and more foreign investments in Kurdistan esp from Saudi Arabia, Saudi money is badly needed in Kurdistan and the rest of Iraq. These are welcome developments for Kurds and Iraq! Add to that the rise in oil prices and the end of the ISIS war and the future looks even brighter for Iraq and for Iraqi Kurds!
Pete | 27/7/2018
"We say that Kurdistan needs to adopt a capitalist model" - of course you do. You wish to make the Kurds your commercial slaves so that you can profit from them, just as the UK profits from slavery all around the World. Is it any coincidence that it is the UK who is arming the dictator Erdogan with high-tech missiles and fighter jets to destroy the Kurds' anti-capitalist democracy in Turkey and Syria? Concentrate on the failure of British society first, your internal race war, and your child stabbing epidemic before trying to tell the rest of the World how to exist... Sykes Picot is YOURS.
Barbara White | 27/7/2018
As an American living in Duhok, Kurdistan, Gary Kent has stated my sentiments exactly. I believe, however that there is no stepping backwards for the Kurdish People only those who would seek to grab them by the heels. The Kurds are advancing by leaps and bounds as they accept these strong realities expressed in this article.
JK | 29/7/2018
Stop refiguring to South Kurdistan which is not even 20% of Kurdistan as "Kurdistan". Some smart ass will immediately say "but Kurdistan is not a country", true, but Kurdistan as a region is a historical fact. Disregarding these past 90 years which lead to Kurdistan being carved up by Britain France and Russia Kurdistan was called and recognized as Kurdistan for at least 800 years! Even Erdogan admitted this fact when he was on good terms with Kurds 3 years ago. This is like referring to only northern Ireland as Ireland, or only Gaza as Palestine. It is pure ignorance at best, I many other Kurds take issue with it, even when it is from advocates and friends of Kurds
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