Last week, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government Masoud Barzani announced that the Kurds have set an official date to hold a referendum on their independence.
“I am pleased to announce that the date for the independence referendum has been set for Monday, September 25,” tweeted Barzani.
On June 7, Barzani met with Kurdish political parties to discuss the referendum.
“Since the 1990s, the Kurdish region of northern Iraq has enjoyed an autonomous status. This was cemented in Iraq’s new constitutions after the US-led invasion in 2003. In 2005, the region held a referendum in which 98% of 1.9 million people voted for independence,” writes The Jerusalem Post. “Peter Galbraith wrote in The New York Times at the time, “The news will not be welcomed by American and British officials who have studiously ignored the Kurdish independence movement, pretending that the unity of Iraq is not at issue in the country’s transition to democracy.”
Barzani calls the official vote a “divorce from Baghdad” and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), especially the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) are in support of it.
However, the Gorran party (Movement for Change) and Kurdistan Islamic Group both refused to attend Barzani’s meeting to discuss the referendum.
The Turkish government also loudly disapproves of the KRG independence referendum and officials have called it a “grave mistake.”
The Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi also warned against the referendum.
“Iraqi relies on the constitution as the reference for shaping the relation between the federal government and Kurdistan region,” said al-Haditihi in a statement. “No party can decide its fate unilaterally. … All Iraqis should have their say regarding their homeland’s fate.”
The U.S. government expressed similar concerns.
“We support a unified, stable and a federal Iraq. We appreciate and understand the legitimate aspirations of the people of the Iraqi Kurdistan,” said Heather Nauert, State Department spokeswoman. “We … encourage the regional authorities to engage with the government of Iraq on the full range of important issues, including the future of relations between Baghdad and Erbil, on the bases of the Iraqi constitution.”
However, U.S. officials see a free Kurdistan sometime in the future.
“Kurdish independence is on a trajectory where it is probably not if, but when,” said Vincent Stewart, Marine Lt. Gen. leading the Pentagon intelligence, to Senate Armed Services Committee last month. “And it will complicate the situation unless there’s an agreement in Baghdad—an agreement that all of the parties can live with.”
Nonetheless, the independence referendum will happen.
“A referendum is a democratic process, no democratic country can oppose having a referendum; we are not talking about independence, we are talking about the referendum,” said Hoshiyar Zebari, KRG senior adviser said to Reuters.
Author’s note: Could the Kurds actually get their own state? The real question is– will Iraq let them go? The Kurds have been faithful allies of the U.S., but U.S. officials, along with several other Middle Eastern countries, especially Turkey have made it clear that they don’t approve.
Editor’s note: The U.S. should have pushed for this long ago. The Kurds are a noble people who have been brave and faithful allies.