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Barzani has opened a ‘can of worms’

The Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum was the topic that captured the headlines in the region’s newspapers

Image Credit: AFP
Iraqi Kurdish peshmergas take part in a gathering to urge people to vote in the upcoming independence referendum in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on September 20, 2017. A referendum on independence for Iraqi Kurdistan set for September 25 comes as the autonomous region faces the worst economic crisis in its short history./ AFP / SAFIN HAMED
Gulf News

The dream of separation and independence can turn into a nightmare once personal ambitions are mixed with available capabilities, and once people are thrown into fights with indeterminable outcomes, wrote the UAE’s Al Khaleej.

“In reality, the Kurds’ dream of independence remains far away when the necessary elements are absent, wrong choices are made and wrong methods are adopted. Masoud Barzani, President of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, decided to challenge everybody around him, knowing full well that such a decision would be costly and that he would not be able to handle the repercussions. Baghdad and the neighbouring countries decided to impose a land and air blockade on the Kurdistan region, and other countries, among them the United States, have announced that they will not recognise the results of the referendum. All that Barzani has to do now is convince himself that it is not the right time for the referendum, and that the easiest path is to hold a dialogue with Baghdad on the basis of rights, duties, partnership and citizenship.”

Although the Kurds of Iraq have enjoyed considerable autonomy since the fall of Saddam Hussain, Barzani has insisted that his people have the right to choose their destiny, said the Saudi Gazette.

“Kurdistan as an independent nation has a very uncertain future because the decision was unilateral. Nothing has been agreed with Iraq, the country from which it is seeking to break away. And perhaps more importantly, nothing has been agreed with Turkey, which is resolutely opposed to the existence of any independent Kurdish state. Reality is likely to hit home rapidly as the flag-waving celebrations are succeeded by the realisation that an independent Kurdistan is isolated and largely friendless, despite the flattering attention of foreign media who flocked to Arbil to cover the referendum.

“For now, Barzani may think the referendum triumph has given his government a new lease of life. The reality, however, is that it has opened up a very dangerous can of worms not just for the Kurds of Iraq, but for the whole region.”

Give the Kurds a real stake in Baghdad’s government, and then they will let go of the separation idea, wrote the London-based Pan-Arab paper Asharq Al Awsat.

“Right now, they are conferred honorary posts without powers just like many components of the Iraqi state, which was founded, post the invasion, on a participatory parliamentary system.

Almost all the countries in the region oppose the idea of any territory’s separation, which will make Kurdistan’s plan more difficult to achieve. There is increased fear that the central Iraqi authority, along with Iran and Turkey, will wage a war against the Kurdish ‘state,’ especially after 92 per cent of the Kurds in Kurdistan region supported the separation from their country, Iraq. Separation is a long and dangerous political route as it includes military confrontations and a painful economic blockade,” the paper said.

“At the same time, the Kurds are determined, and even if they hold back somehow now, they will pursue it later.”

The Kurds have shown the world the reality of their independent country that will have huge repercussions on the region, said the Kuwaiti Arab Times. “An independent country will perhaps lead to geographical changes in Turkey, Iran and Syria, as well as Iraq, which seems to be the first country to suffer from losses in this aspect.

“Even though the Kurds’ separation poses a direct threat to Iran, it withdrew from its stance and the consensus of the countries surrounding Kurdistan concerning the closure of borders, with the hope of establishing an ally country in the south of Iraq.

“Any talk about a war to restore Kurdistan to the house of Iraq’s obedience will not be realised because neither Turkey nor Iran is ready to wade into a war. In addition, both Iraq and Syria are currently drowning in civil wars.”