Originally published in the Greek newspaper “Paraskinio”, issue 584, p. 57 on June 24, 2017
Iraqi Kurdish administration announced last week a referendum on September 25th to sever the northern part of the country, rebuild the border of the region and form the Iraqi Kurdish state. This announcement was received with great dissatisfaction from both Turkey and Iran. The US also announced that it is better for the Kurdish administration to wait and not to hurry. Separation of the northern part of Iraq is particularly sensitive and not an internal issue for some regional and international community. However, this separation was encouraged by some forces. We will try to explain the obstacles, the chances of success of the referendum and what is going on.
Despite the claims of local officials that separating the Kurdish region of Iraq is an internal affair, reality is different. These are both internal and external arrangements. An important point for the success of this separation is the abandonment of the militia mentality and the transition to the state mentality through the imposition of power and the termination of the presence of terrorist organizations in the region and in particular the PKK. It is also important for the leadership of the region to engage in constructive discussions with neighboring countries in order to adjust their attitude to the issue and resolve outstanding issues, which is not easy.
The Kurdish region of Iraq has been federated since 1970. Despite the difficulties faced by the Kurds during the Iran-Iraq war, the region succeeded in gaining administrative and military structures and security services in the years to come. A Kurdish army named Peshmerga was formed, who supported the US forces during the war against Saddam Hussein’s regime at the end of 2002. On economic level, the Kurds developed oil exports, the most important product of the region but also of superior quality from the rest of Iraq.
The strategic position of the region favors the expansion of the Kurdish struggle into neighboring countries like eastern Turkey, northern Iran and north-eastern Syria, which is a point of concern for the governments of these countries. Turkey is well aware that the organization of the PKK terrorist forces has made the Qandil Mountains, north of the Kurdish region of Iraq, an operation center for its activities within the country, associated with training and acquisition of material resources implemented throughout the area. Turkey’s Kurds in the southeast are affected by the slogans of the separatist organization. Therefore, the declaration of the secession of Iraqi Kurds will intensify the pressure on the Turkish government and increase the voices of independence, so the annexation of the eastern part of southern Turkish territory will be a matter of time. The issue of Iran is largely similar to Turkey, but the Kurds in the region are more oppressed and therefore the risk of secession is growing. On the Syrian side, the Kurds, with the support of the United States, were able to plan their own land in the northeast of the country, creating a military force, despite their connection with the terrorist PKK. So they are very close to their attachment to the Iraqi Kurdish state if it is created.
Creating a Kurdish state will have major regional implications, as I explained, and for this reason some countries are rejecting it. There are, however, other countries that support the creation of the Kurdish state either apparently or secretly, such as Germany, France and Israel, who are some of its greatest supporters. On the other hand, the American role in the federalization of the region was enormous, and the great support of the Peshmerga forces with armaments, training and intelligence has greatly opened the way for secession. However, due to the fact that there is still no green light from the US government, the chances of success are limited.