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Mosul liberated, KRG sets date for referendum, What’s next?

By Paul Davis 30/6/2017
Mosul liberated, KRG sets date for referendum, What’s next?
The months’ long fight for Mosul appears to be over, at least as a full out military operation. While there will still be months of clean-up ahead, the last of the organized ISIS occupation is over. Meanwhile President Barzani has announced the date of a referendum on independence for the Kurdish regions of Iraq, at least those under the KRG. I do not intend to speak to the justification of Kurdish independence since at this point you are for it or against it. According to most polls over 95% of those living in the effected region are for it.  

There are those however who oppose independence, and I don’t mean just the Turks, Iran and Baghdad. 

The biggest problem for a successful independence is going to come from Kurd themselves. Many of today’s young Kurds were raised or educated in the West, notably Germany, the UK and the US. These people returned to Kurdistan with the ideals of western democracy, and protest what they see as corruption and dictatorship. Looking at a culture through the lens of another is always a mistake. Based on Western culture, the government in Erbil would appear to be corrupt and ineffective, but the baseline must be Kurdish culture and history. Basing a desired beginning on a system that took hundreds of years to materialize, is going to lead to disaster. What is seen today in the West is the product of a lot of mistakes and stumbles. 

I have read with dismay the articles and letters that say Kurdistan is not ready for independence because it has not solved all its problems and is not 100% perfect. There is an old saying that goes “Perfect is the enemy of good enough.” 

Independence in the United States was declared while the country was more divided over slavery then problems with England. A compromise was reached which allowed the continental congress to at least sign the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. This of course was not what brought independence but several years of war and alliances with nations, such as France, which were in many cases much worse than England, but they were compromises. 

The first set of laws that formed the US was called the Articles of Confederation which gave almost all powers to the individual states with a very weak central government. This became unworkable and needed to be replaced by the constitution, which corrected the mistakes and gave a mechanism to expand and change over time. It took a very bloody Civil War to correct the problem of slavery and the nation is still coming to grips with that part of its past. 

So, the US is a work in progress 241 years after declaring independence.

England’s clam to democracy rests in the Magna Carta, a document which did nothing more then remove some powers from the king and vest them in the barons. This was followed by a civil war which replaced the monarchy with a dictator presiding over a rump parliament. It took a few more hundreds of years to evolve into the government that rules the UK today. This is a very condensed version of events but you get the idea. 

France, an ally of the United States during its revolution had a revolution of its own, to over throw the king and establish democracy. What followed was the reign of terror and the assertion of Napoleon as emperor. After years of war and false starts France is today a democracy, in its own way. 

As Mosul and the terror of IS comes to an end, the Kurds will face a lot of problems that will interfere with its assentation into a nation and into a democracy. There are many problems that will need to be overcome in the future. There is no need to add to them. There will be bumps and stumbles and violence along the way to a true democracy, designed in the Kurdish way, but Kurdistan must begin the journey. If the Kurds wait for perfect, it will never come. 

No one today can say what this new nation will look like except that it will not, should not, look like the US, UK, France, or Germany. No one can even tell were the final boundaries will be. But without the first step it will die stillborn. 

Paul Davis is a retired US Army military intelligence and former Soviet analyst. He is a consultant to the American intelligence community specializing in the Middle East with a concentration on Kurdish affairs. Currently he is the president of the consulting firm JANUS Think in Washington D.C.

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