Barzani: Amicable Divorce from Iraq “the Only Solution”

An amicable divorce from the federal government of Iraq is the “only solution” to Iraq’s woes and wider regional instability, Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani said during his recent interview with the Foreign Policy.

“A long time ago I reached the conclusion that it was necessary to hold a referendum and let our people to decide,” he said. “For a long time I have had this belief that Baghdad is not accepting real, meaningful partnership with us.”

However, Barzani reiterated during the interview that referendum will be followed by negotiations with the central government on a peaceful secession.

“We don’t want also to accept to be their subordinate. This is in order to prevent a big problem, prevent a bloody war and the deterioration of the security of the whole region.”

Concerning the position of the international community and negative reactions by the neighbouring countries that could result in isolation of the future independent Kurdistan, Barzani said, “If this decision is made by referendum and the reaction is to isolate us, let our people die… That will be a ‘glory’ for the world that they have killed our people by starvation just because those people wanted — through democratic means — to express their destiny.”

Following a meeting with Kurdish political parties on 7th June, Barzani announced that Kurdistan’s independence referendum will be held on 25th September this year to allow the people finally decide on statehood or remaining as part of Iraq.

Commenting on decades of persecution of Kurds under Iraqi governments rule, the Kurdish president pointed out that the share of Kurds was only “the Anfal campaign, chemical bombardment, the destruction of our villages, the mass graves, genocide”.

“Post-2003, what was the share of the Kurds?” Barzani asked. “They cut the budget of Kurdistan, and they have not abided by the Iraqi Constitution.”

Highlighting the continuation of Erbil and Baghdad cooperation on counterterrorism efforts, Barzani stressed out that the coordination between the Kurdish Peshmerga forces and the Iraqi army will be further strengthen. The president stated he recently discussed the independence referendum with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, and that Abadi “was receptive and understanding”.

And eventually, Barzani hopes, the international community will come around to his point of view. “They are saying that maybe this is not a good time, or it may create problems, and I have my differences with them on these two points,” he said. “If these international players are against this referendum, that means that they are against their own values — the peaceful, democratic right of people to express their own decisions about their destiny. If they stand against the referendum, it means that they are against democracy.”