Iraqi Kurdistan defiant in face of Baghdad sanctions, threats

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The Kurdistan Regional Government on Thursday rejected the decisions of the Iraqi parliament and government. It nevertheless expressed a willingness to conduct a dialogue in order to resolve the problems. It will at the same time launch legal challenges to the sanctions imposed on it.

The office of KRG president Massoud Barzani issued a statement after a cabinet meeting of the Iraqi super-province, saying, “The cabinet of the KRG rejects all the decisions that were announced against it by the parliament and government of Iraq on yesterday, Wednesday.” He denounced the measures as “collective punishment of the people of Kurdistan.”

The KRG parliament said that the referendum does not threaten anyone.

I had written yesterday, “The Iraqi parliament on Wednesday passed a resolution demanding that the Iraqi army take control of the province of Kirkuk and reclaim the Kirkuk oil fields as a national patrimony. The parliament also demanded that the government arrest and try Kurdistan president Massoud Barzani for treason.”

Iraqi political circles on Thursday despaired of finding a solution for the standoff between Baghdad and Erbil, after Barzani’s rejection of the demands of the Iraqi parliament.

Baghdad is rejecting any dialogue or negotiations until the Kurdistan Regional Government abrogates the referendum on independence and renounces an attempt to secede.

Iraqi vice president Ayad Allawi called President Barzani in an attempt to mediate the crisis. Barzani, however, declined to renounce the referendum, in which he said 92% of Iraq’s 8 million Kurds voted to establish an independent state. He did say that the referendum did not have to be implemented “on the second day.”

Iraqi parliamentarian Fa’iq al-Shaykh said that the best resolution would be the one suggested by Prime Minister al-Abadi, to allow the Iraqi constitution to be the basis for a decision.

Another MP, Abbas al-Bayati, said the thought that Iraqis were moving to implement the decrees.

Yet another MP, Raad al-Dahlaki, said he opposed putting sanctions on Iraqi Kurdistan that could end up harming “our siblings, the Kurdish people.”

With no resolution in sight, this issue is likely to continue to roil the politic sof the region.

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

TRT World: “Northern Iraq Referendum: Turkey backs Iraq central government”

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16 Responses

  1. There is no need for sanctions, its purse string control by Baghdad that dampens the enthusiasm for independence and curtails the Autonomy they already enjoy.

  2. As I said in a recent interview, I was opposed to the holding of the referendum for some obvious reasons, some of which we see already. The main problem, however, will arise if and when the Kurds wish to define their boundaries and the status of some contested cities such as Kirkuk and Mosul. That could lead to serious conflict and probably ethnic cleansing. Another problem with Kurdish independence in Iraq, as well as in Iran and Turkey, is that the Kurds are scattered throughout the populations and there are many mixed communities. In fact, it is believed that Istanbul holds the largest number of Kurds of any Kurdish city.

    To see that no country welcomes being broken up, one should look at the situation in Catalonia at the heart of Europe where a referendum was due to be held this Sunday. The Spanish government has declared it illegal, but it hasn’t stopped at that. It has seized millions of ballot papers, has arrested a number of the organizers, has used excessive force against the demonstrators, has sent thousands of policemen from other parts of Spain to Barcelona to prevent voting from taking place, etc. In the new global village, the idea of ethnic or religious independence makes no sense. We have to try to find democratic ways of living together and getting along with each other.

    • Unfortunately, Farhang, people don’t live happily together because its usually one or more factions living under the rule, or sometime jack boot of a tyrannical power which dominates the country. The European Union is a good case in point. We Brits have already broken away from this overpowering authority and I suspect others will follow eventually. Even Scotland here in the UK wanted to break away from the UK. The same goes for Ireland. Just as people like to run their own lives free from state interference, so tribes, if I can call them that, want to do their own thing as well. I get on quite well with my neighbour, but if he started telling me how I should do my garden or otherwise manage my home, our friendship would soon come to an end. Its all about that one most fundamental word we here so often quoted, “freedom” !!

      • Kim, the arrangement that you have made with your neighbour is a very sensible one. Instead of unilaterally declaring your independence from him and having nothing to do with him you have decided to find a way of getting along together. In today’s globalised world, it is extremely difficult to live separate lives as we share so many things from climate, economy, health, security, intelligence, counter-terrorism, transport, science, etc. with other countries. What has enabled us to live peaceful lives in Britain and the United States with our neighbours has been the development of democratic governments that regulate our relations with one another. This is why in Iraq, Spain, Palestine-Israel and in other parts of the world we have to push for more democratic governments, and globally we should push for equality before the international law instead of having a few super-powers bullying us and dictating how we should live. If we want to make sure that human race survives, in a world of nuclear weapons we should soon realise that the age of warfare is over.

        • The major dystopian novels, We, Brave New World, 1984 all posit worlds in which the masses are constrained in bleak uniformity. It may be inevitable but those of us who resist such a future can still be heard.

      • How does tribalism work out for Afghanistan, with or without a functioning government?

        Tribalism in America is a construct created by modern interests – the English corporate investors who paid to create the colonial plantation economy only to find their motley indentured crew of English convicts and defeated Scots and Irish and even some African captives were plotting against them. Race was invented to divide them against each other in a way that chillingly resembled the Stanford Prison Experiment. The White race was manufactured for the purposes of capitalist conquest, enslavement and genocide of North America. Thus its “tribal identity” by definition cannot recognize the human rights or autonomy of other tribes, which is why it falls back into the same evils century after century without liberal nation-state ideology to keep it from backsliding.

        I argue that tribalism is now so contaminated by such artificiality via modern class interests that no one is safe, or honest. Wasn’t fascism a cartoon version of tribalism that proved wildly popular? It gave “low-information” bigots the chance to throw off the shackles of civilization when it came to dealing with neighbors while preserving the military-bureaucratic state needed to organize modern armies.

        Explain to me how tribalism works without an organized, enforceable recognition of universal human rights. You Europeans will be butchering each other again within a generation, because in a tribalist anarchy, the one tribe most organized for conquest becomes the model for all the others and no international organization exists to counter it.

        So to get ready, watch us Americans as we start to kill each other in the streets again over the idea of a Master Race infinitely coded in crosses and American and Confederate flags. That’s what the Patriarchy means by freedom.

    • “….[a]nother problem with Kurdish independence……is that the Kurds are scattered throughout the populations and there are many mixed communities.”

      As you likely are aware, Iran is a good example where Kurds are not only scattered among non-Kurds – but divisions exist within the Kurdish Iranian community on the topic of Kurdish independence – with Sunni Kurds supportive of an independent Kurdish state, on one hand, and Shia Kurds loyal to the Iranian government in Tehran.

      There has, also, been Kurdish civil unrest in western Iran that has been largely unreported in the international media. An estimated six million Kurds live in Iran – almost the same number as inhabit Iraq – yet the story of the possible implications of the declaration of an independent Kurdish state partially constituted from land under Iranian sovereignty has been largely ignored.

      “…..it is believed that Istanbul holds the largest number of Kurds of any Kurdish city.”

      Yes, however the actual number of Kurds in Istanbul is debatable as is the percentage of those Kurds who support Kurdish independence.

      There are also 100,000 Kurdish Jews residing in Jerusalem – how would they react to an independent Kurdish state?

      The Kurdish people were the “orphans” of the Sykes-Picot agreement – which led to a Kurdish diaspora and years of oppression around the world.

      “…..[w]e have to try to find democratic ways of living together and getting along together.”

      Most Western observers thought that the creation of Israel in 1948 was a good idea – a democratic and pluralistic Zionist state founded by survivors of the Holocaust and those who understood oppression firsthand – yet almost sixty years later Israel is a militarized police state that has been in almost non-stop conflict with her neighbors and Palestinian Arabs under her control as well as unsettled borders.

      Will an independent Kurdistan follow the history of Israel?

  3. I don’t see how the result of a referendum can be ‘abrogated’ since it has happened. It disclosed the wishes of the people who voted. Barzani said that “the referendum did not have to be implemented on the second day.” Even if it is never implemented the referendum result stands. Baghdad cannot make it go away any more than yesterday’s sunrise. It may not have been the best time to hold a referendum and some Kurds voiced that opinion. However, the world now knows exactly how most of them feel about independence which is progress on it’s own. Baghdad must surely have guessed what the result would be but wanted to keep the lid on it. That is doubtless why they are so pissed off, just like Netanyahu with Palestine joining Interpol. What the eye cannot see the heart cannot grieve over.

  4. This is reminiscent of May of 1948 when David Ben-Gurion in Tel Aviv declared the independence of the State of Israel as gunfire could be heard throughout the city.

    An oppressed people for thousands of years realizing their dreams of a national homeland. These events in Kurdistan are truly historic – as well as a victory for U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies.

  5. And yet the Czechs and Slovaks agreed mutually to end their union, peacefully and civilly, when the desire for unity vanished. I wish other countries would follow this example. I sympathize with the Kurds… and the Catalans, and the Scots, where large segments or majorities of the people wish full independence against the control-mania of the central government.

    • The worst control freaks are those who demand purity (as opposed to recognition) of identity, because they’re never satisfied. You secede today, only to find “contamination” seeping across your borders tomorrow. The ultimate solutions are always enslavement, ethnic cleansing and extermination.

  6. So, from looking at the comments here from around the world praising tribalism and bashing government, I guess we can now say that all that’s left of (big-government socialist egalitarian) Martin Luther King is his holiday.

  7. So the Iraqi government wants a war with the Kurds? Well the last time Iraq was in a mess only the Kurds seem to hold it together. As I do recall the Iraqi army wasn’t any great shakes at fighting, leaving equipment in the field for ISIS. The real fighters turned out to be Kurds.

    Now the Pres. of Iraq may want those oil fields, but really can he fight his way to them to get them. Perhaps that is why Tillerson isn’t keen on Kurdish independence. With oil in Iraqi hands, its easier for the Americans to exert control.

    This maybe where we see more war in the middle east and that will work ever so well for ISIS. While a few countries go to war with the Kurds, ISIS can resurrect themselves. Nice going.

  8. The Kurds have clearly stated their problem with Iraq is the sectarian state. Farhang has a point about ill defined borders. Many regions of the world have been multi cultural and multi ethnic for centuries or longer. To try and carve mono ethnic blocks of of this might not feel like freedom to people who get ethnically cleansed. “Tribalistic” nation states might seem like a good idea when the borders are clearly defined by, say, the English Channel, and have not, in the case of, say, Scotland, been contested for a very long time. Elsewhere is more complicated. People have to live together and stop favouring their own kind. That’s what the real problem is. Maybe then they can figure a way forward.

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