Between opposing Kurdish separation and sidelining the Kurds

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

It was inevitable for Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani to try out his citizens’ luck, the Iraqi Kurds, in fulfilling a long time dream of theirs – separation and running an independent state.

Most arrows were pointing to failure, so why did Barzani do it? Perhaps if he didn’t, fingers would be pointing at him in the future accused of failing his people. This is critical because Barzani assumed joint effort with Baghdad’s government both militarily and politically over the last few years.

It was Barzani who cooperated with the International Council to fight terrorist organizations – Kurdish blood was shed for the sake of this mission.

Independence a mistake

However, his mission to make the Kurds’ dream a reality, to establish a single independent state was wrong. This is because there is no single regional state willing to support him, not to mention that the separation is a threat to all.

This is a point that applies to Southern Yemen and other plans on separation in the region. With such projects, to fulfil its mission it’s not enough to have the majority belonging to the people of that region, instead international recognition on the referendum’s vote is more important.

For this reason, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran crossed paths with the same view point on the differing policies in the biggest regional states and opposed Kurdistan’s separation; or in political terms, the countries announced that they stand with a unified Iraq.

Other major countries supported the trio quietly.

The Iraqi state is for all Iraqis. It’s not for the majority or the most powerfully armed. Its authority is constitutionally mandated and not a religious, militia or armed tribes reference, nor is it mandated from external forces

At the same time, there is an important message behind failing Iraqi Kurdistan Region’s separation project. The message is as follows, local or regional powers will not be allowed to change internal states. This is not only aimed at the Kurds, but also at groups affiliated with Iran in the region whether in southern, central Iraq or elsewhere.

The message is also directed at countries in the region trying to exploit ongoing chaos and impose their small scattered republics from the midst of wars.

The growing Saudi-Iraqi relationship seems to have accelerated an important correction in foreign policy toward these areas that need to be approached rather than ignored.

Although we are against Iraq’s division in favor of any party, this doesn’t mean we can keep quiet about the ongoing attempts at weakening the Iraqi-Kurdish component – a very important one in Iraqi balances. It is also important for the region.

Surely, we’re not supposed to accept the weakening of Masoud Barzani’s authority, the Region’s president and one of the most important leaders of Iraq and the region as a whole.

There are Kurdish forces that seek to exploit the current crisis against Masoud and his authority. There is Turkey and Iran and Baghdad’s government attempting to weaken him through adopting direct sanctions on the Region and its powers – in addition to threatening Barzani militarily.

Yes, the Kurds were in the wrong to go through with referendum, they were also wrong in assuming its results were a greenlight to pursue an independent state. In reality, this was a step that had resulted in an Iraqi and regional VETO. Consequently, the separation project was aborted.

After this, the Kurdish problem should be resolved. Resolved not through confrontation and escalation, but through reconciliation between Erbil and Baghdad; the project has already been aborted, it has come to an end.

The attempts of some Iraqi forces to track down Iraqi-Kurdish leaders is not in Baghdad’s interest, nor is it in the interest of Haider al-Abadi’s government. This is only adding fuel to the fire.

Kurdish support to Iraq

Let’s recall the Kurdish stance in Baghdad who backed the rest of the Iraqi forces. They contributed in ending Nouri al-Maliki’s position when he refused to step down, he wanted to continue as prime minister with absolute powers for life.

The Kurds are essential to the balance of power in the Iraqi political system, just the way it was built during the US occupation.

Exploiting the crisis to weaken the Kurds and their Region’s government is an Iranian project. It is one that suits the armed militia such as the Popular Mobilization Forces which, and if they raise the Iraqi flag and legitimized themselves, remain a militia that competes with the Iraqi army – the country’s legitimate forces – and threaten Iraq’s unity.

Until the conflicts on the separation and the threats to marginalize the capital’s powers come to a close, the solution remains as implementing promises and commitments that formed the modern state and its constitution.

The Iraqi state is for all Iraqis. It’s not for the majority or the most powerfully armed. Its authority is constitutionally mandated and not a religious, militia or armed tribes reference, nor is it mandated from external forces.

This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.