Following the overwhelmingly successful turnout in last week’s Kurdistan Independence Referendum, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), who has long been an advocate of the Kurdish people, introduced a bill in the House of Representatives supporting an independent Kurdish state.
House Resolution 534 (HR 534) affirms, “The people of the Kurdistan Region have the right to determine their status as a sovereign country” and declares that “the Kurdish people meet the objective requirements for the right of self-determination, which include a common language, religion, ethnic background, cultural heritage, and history.”
In addition, HR 534 states that the Kurdistan Region “has proven as America’s most effective partner” in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS/IS/ISIL/Daesh).
Franks, who chairs of the House International Religious Freedom Caucus and sits on the House Armed Services and Judiciary Committees, issued a statement coinciding with the introduction of his bill, saying, “Baghdad has failed to secure Kurdish rights” and “protect the Kurdish people from members of the Islamic State and other violent forces”:
Thank God for the Kurds – they have delivered countless groups and individuals from the hands of ISIS. Without their armed defense of northern territory, and the protection of over 2 million refugees, the medieval horrors of ISIS could have been much more widespread. During the darkest days of the Iraq War, Kurdistan remained a sanctuary of order in the midst of sectarian chaos.
As such, Franks said he feels “the United States is obligated to support the bid for independence – if it is in our national interest.”
Franks noted in his statement that “while the Obama administration dithered and fought efforts to arm and support the Kurds, the Trump administration has the opportunity to stand with a noble people in their time of need. A free and independent Kurdistan can represent hope for peace in the Middle East.”
The Department of State made it clear that it “does not recognize the Kurdistan Regional Government’s unilateral referendum held on Monday.” In a press release issued several days after the referendum was held, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wrote, “The vote and the results lack legitimacy and we continue to support a united, federal, democratic and prosperous Iraq.”
He added, “The fight against ISIS/Daesh is not over, and extremist groups are seeking to exploit instability and discord. We urge our Iraqi partners to remain focused on defeating ISIS/Daesh.”
President Donald Trump has not yet sounded off on the Kurdish vote, leaving some analysts to believe he has sided with Iran – which is essentially controlling Baghdad – over the Kurdish people.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has also come out in support of Kurdish independence. “Monday’s historic vote in Iraqi Kurdistan should be recognized and respected by the world, and the Kurdish people of northern Iraq have my utmost support,” Schumer said in a statement last week.
However, it is still unclear whether Schumer intends to introduce a bill supporting such efforts in the Senate.