RNA - The contentious move spearheaded by regional President Masoud Barzani has faced bitter opposition from the international community, the central government and several other countries, including neighboring Iran, Turkey and Syria. The plan for the non-binding referendum was approved in the Iraqi city of Erbil in the 111-seat parliament consisting of Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) of Iraq's former president, Jalal Talabani, and the independent Goran and Jamaa Islamiya opposition parties.
For good reasons, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has slammed the planned vote as “unconstitutional,” calling on the Kurdish leadership to come to Baghdad and conclude a dialogue. The premier’s remarks came after the Iraqi House of Representatives voted to reject the poll on the Kurdish region's independence. Few points are worth mentioning in this respect:
1- The terrorist group of ISIL is on the verge of collapse. Last thing post-ISIL Iraq needs is divisive moves such as the upcoming referendum in its Kurdish region. The central government in Baghdad should take all necessary measures to maintain the unity of Iraq and start a serious dialogue with Kurdish politicians to resolve the pending issues.
2- Turkey has already censured the US-Israeli efforts to establish the so-called independent Kurdistan. The potential creation of an independent Kurdish state in Turkey’s backyard is a grave mistake. It would further embolden Turkey’s homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants toward an even stiffer confrontation with the government. This requires Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria to hold a high-level security meeting to decide on how to respond to the plebiscite.
3- Iran has expressed its opposition to the unilateral scheme for creation of yet “another Israel” in the heartlands of the Muslim world, underlining the importance of maintaining the integrity and stability of Iraq and insisting that the Kurdistan region is part of the majority Arab country. This is while the whole world – except for Israel – agrees that the divisive referendum on September 25 is wrong step in all its entirety.
4- Logic dictates that the Kurdish politicians reverse the unconstitutional decision while there is still time. Barzani is free to claim that there will be no turning from the referendum, but he is wrong to assume that Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria and the rest of the international community would ever recognize the result of his ambitious referendum.
5- History suggests that the vote will create tensions in the regional states, thus distracting them from the war on ISIL, Al-Qaeda and offshoots, who continue to occupy parts of Iraq and Syria. There can never be an idealized Kurdish homeland, which would be the largest country in the Middle East, all at the expense of other nations of people who live heterogeneously within those lands, many of which suffered genocide at the hands of ISIL, and were expelled, their lands forcibly seized or lying in ruin.
6- Tensions are rising so much among various Kurdish parties for imposing their rule over a larger territory on the first day after independence, if such a day arrives at all. Even Barzani has emphasized time and again that there won't be an independence, irrespective of the referendum results. Meaning that the move is only meant to exert growing pressure on Baghdad to give a larger share of power to the Kurds in post-ISIL Iraq.
In any case, the upcoming referendum might help the Kurds offset the political balance in Baghdad for some time, but given the economic model the Kurdish regions are maintaining, and almost complete reliance on Turkey and Iran for any economic prosperity, it isn’t sustainable. Civil war will likely erupt once again as the money inevitably runs out and the prospect of expanding territory and conquering land becomes distant and remote. And as always, with any such tension between local, warring political parties and their personal armies, defenseless Kurdish population newly liberated from ISIL will suffer the hardest, being as they are captives under a flag that is not theirs.
The referendum is arguably nothing more than a bargaining chip used by Barzani, whilst also covering itself as a clever ploy to lull the suffering Kurdish population away from the on-going problems. Since 2013, not only has Barzani unlawfully extended his premiership, but the Kurdish parliament has also been dissolved, making any mandate to push forth a referendum ultimately undemocratic.
Unsurprisingly, the only regime which has openly showed actual support for Kurdish secession is Israel. Whilst any Israeli ally would be welcomed in Tel Aviv, such partnership could be disastrous on how the Kurds are further perceived by their hostile borders. Simply put, their deluded fantasies could very quickly go sour and bring about more conflicts, revolts and instability.