The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq declared on June 7 a plan to hold a referendum on the region’s independence this year on September 25. This decision has put into motion the KRG’s drive for independence and the first serious nail in the coffin of the post-colonial state structure in the Middle East.
Despite anger over the referendum in Ankara, Turkey is continuing negotiations with the KRG.
“Our primary aim is to correct this mistake through negotiation. We will keep working on this issue,” the Turkish presidential spokesman said. “To adopt an immediate sanction such as closing the border gate without sitting with them is out of question.”
With the Mosul operation essentially on cleanup mode, the Peshmerga has gained significant territory that is now considered part of the KRG and is included in the referendum.
Arif Qurbany a Kurdish political analyst and observer wrote the following in his opinion piece on Rudaw:
“A decision to set the referendum date in Kurdistan to determine the fate of the Kurdish nation in Iraq with the inclusion of Kirkuk and the all Kurdistani areas outside the Region was a crucial and brave move for all the parties that attended the meeting.”
Despite his support for the referendum, Qurbany urged all Kurdish parties to unite in order to see independence be successful:
“If all the people of Kurdistan together have a united will, then the opposition of foreign nations to the referendum will not have a substantial significance and will not pose a threat to the process, just as the nation’s will in the spring uprising of 1991 overcame all barriers. When we also wanted to hold elections for the parliament and later formed the government and declared federalism, not only did no government or country support us, but also they threatened to attack Kurdistan. But because the will of the nation was behind its leadership, no reactions or threats from anyone worked as the Kurds proved themselves on the ground. They were even obliged to deal with us.”
Turkey has much to lose from an independent Kurdistan as does the Iraqi government. Kurdistan remains the most stable area of Iraq and is oil rich. An independent Kurdistan based in Northern Iraq will most likely extend into Northern Syria and connect to the YPG which has already declared itself an autonomous Kurdish region in Syria. As the KRG prepares for the referendum, covert allies of the autonomous area such as the USA and Israel remain silent. Israel itself has nurtured a behind the scenes relationship with the burgeoning country through military training, oil sales, and arms provisions.
Israel took a similar tactic in South Sudan, which most credit for the young country’s successful independence drive. For Israel, an independent Kurdistan provides it a buffer against Shiite expansionism and a moderate Muslim ally.
The most important geopolitical result of an independent Kurdistan will be a direct check to the expansionist desires of Turkey’s semi-dictator Erdogan, who has had his sites in reinstating a mini-version of the Ottoman Sultanate. Kurdistan is the best chance for the region to begin to rectify the colonial pursuits of the British and French as well as the Ottoman Empire.