Iraq: Kurds Debate Whether to Push for Independence
Kurdish representatives seemed unwilling to move back to the “pre-June 9” Iraqi governing structure that entails taking orders from Baghdad. A Kurdish representative said after a meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington Wednesday, “we are not ready to go back to pre-June 9,” when ISIS began its blitzkrieg-like campaign throughout Iraq.
“We are not willing to go back to the previous formula of Baghdad to control and dictate,” said Fuad Hussein, chief of staff to the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government. He continued, “There is a new state between us and Baghdad, ruled by a terrorist group. In the end we believe in self-determination.”
Massoud Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government, has called for a referendum to decide upon independence as a Kurdish sovereign state.
Kurdish representatives walked out of a meeting convened by Iraq’s new parliament Tuesday, citing frustration with Sunni and Shiite members failing to nominate new representatives to form a government. However, Hussein said the Kurds would send representatives to the next parliamentary session in Iraq on July 8th.
The Obama administration has so far insisted upon a united Iraq state, going as far as to reject the Kurdish sale of oil without Baghdad’s approval. Kerry, however, recently admitted that it would be “very difficult” to imagine Iraq realistically staying as one unified entity.
Israel expressed a far different tone than the Obama administration in expressing its support for an independent Kurdistan.
On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking at Tel Aviv University in Israel, said: “We need to support the Kurdish aspiration for independence. They deserve it.” Netanyahu said the Kurds are “a nation of warriors, that have proven their commitment to political moderation, and they’re worthy of their own political independence.”
Israel’s Kurdish population, estimated at 200,000 people, has largely expressed support and enthusiasm towards the promise of an independent Kurdistan. “The National Organization of the Jews of Kurdistan blesses the Kurdish people with independence, and sees a shared fate between the Kurds and the state of Israel, the people of Israel and especially the Kurdish Jewish community,” said the chairman of the organization, Yehuda Ben Yosef.