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Asharq al-Awsat: Kurds of Northern Iraq may declare independence

PanARMENIAN.Net - A critical issue that is being affected by the intention of the US to withdraw from Iraq is what will happen to the Kurdish autonomous areas that are formally still under Baghdad's control, a world renowned expert on Middle Eastern affairs, Ambassador Dore Gold said in his article.

“Last week, the Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat published a column saying that it might come as a shock for some readers, but it is now inevitable that the Kurds of Northern Iraq, who now have their own Kurdistan Regional Government, will declare their independence. There were several reasons given to substantiate this prediction. Kurdish public opinion was undoubtedly influenced by the independence of South Sudan on July 9, 2011. Both the Kurds and the South Sudanese had fought against Arab dictatorships which used genocide and ethnic cleansing against them.

There are also important external developments shaping the course of events. The US is withdrawing from Iraq, where it served as a critical stabilizing force and intermediary between the Kurdish Regional Government in Northern Iraq and the Iraqi Central Government in Baghdad. Turkey's views are also changing. It has long had the greatest reservations in the Middle East from the independence of an Iraqi Kurdish state. The CIA estimates that as much as a fifth of Iraq's population of 30 million are Kurds--or roughly 6 million. However, In Turkey, there is a much larger Kurdish population which the CIA estimates is about 18 per cent of the Turkish population, or about 14 million Kurds. It was thought that a Kurdish state seceding from Iraq might cause the Turkish Kurds to seek independence, as well.

But in the last number of years, Turkey's relations with the government of Iraqi Kurdistan have improved. Reportedly, Turkish companies have become active in Iraqi Kurdistan, even dominating its economy. Iraq's Kurdish leaders at the same time do not seem to be enraged at Turkey's cross-border military incursions into their territory to destroy the training camps of the PKK. Given these developments, Turkish objections to Kurdish independence are undergoing a process of change. In the meantime, in most of Iraqi Kurdistan while the Kurdish flag is flown, the Iraqi flag is hardly raised. And the Kurdish Regional Government has begun to reach agreements with international oil companies, like Exxon, circumventing the Iraqi government in Baghda.

Iraqi Kurds have bitter memories from the period of Saddam Hussein when they were dominated by the Arabs of Iraq. In the late 1980's, Saddam, employed chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurdish villages. Kurdish politicians can point to Kurdish rights that were once recognized by the West in the past. For example, under the 1920 Treaty of Sevres, the Ottoman Empire relinquished its sovereignty over areas outside of Anatolia (like Eretz Israel), including Kurdistan, "east of the Euphrates and south of the southern boundary of Armenia." The area was to be autonomous, yet there was a provision that within a year the Kurds could appeal to the League of Nations for independence.

By 1923, Turkey recovered all of its Kurdish areas from the allied powers. Two years later, the British, who became aware of the oil resources of Northern Iraq, convinced the League of Nations to alter Iraq's northern border to incorporate Mosul and the areas in which the Kurds lived. Kurdish independence had been quashed in both Turkey and in Iraq. But the idea of Kurdish independence had not died for reasons explained above. Masrour Barzani, the head of intelligence for the Kurdish region in Iraq and the son of its president, Masoud Barzani, has been calling for "a three state solution" for Iraq, by which an independent Kurdish state emerges that will be linked to Sunni and Shiite states in a confederation.

The Kurdish question places many states in the West in a hypocritical position, especially given the efforts they constantly invest in the Palestinian issue. There are close to 30 million Kurds today spread out between Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Armenia, who do not benefit from the right of self-determination, which was granted to them over 90 years ago, after the First World War. The Kurds understand that there is a double standard that the international community has adopted when the issue of Kurdish independence is raised. For that reason, up until now their leaders have been careful not to seek their own state. But there are increasing signs that this position is about to change,” the article concluded.

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