MESOP COMMENTARY : The future of Iraq and Kurds’ quest for independence – KURDISH SPARTANS ?

ISTANBUL – 28.06.2014  – ORHAN MİROĞLU (Cihan/Today’s Zaman) – It is like a joke that the Obama administration announced that the US will send 300 troops to Iraq to tackle with its recent security problem.These 300 Spartans will come and stop the organization Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) that is progressing toward Baghdad.

The role the US will play at a time when Iraq’s unitary structure is radically shaken and the public security in the country is threatened by armed ISIL militants does not consist, of course, solely of sending 300 troops to the region. These people will provide consultancy services to the local army forces concerning the reestablishment of public security and government authority. But you are doomed to fail even if you provide the best consultancy services to an army that deserted their positions even without a firing single shot at the ISIL militants. Today, the future of Iraq is dependent not on security, but on reasonable answers to the question of whether diverse ethnicities, religious groups and sects living in the country can coexist politically and socially. From the previous international experience, we know that the only thing the international community can do in a politically fragmented geography is to ensure that the fragmentation occurs with fewer problems and less destruction. Today, no one except the Nouri al-Maliki-led government in Iraq believes that everything will be the same in the country. People in central Iraq, northern Iraq and Basra have dwindling hopes about the possibilities of maintaining Iraq’s unitary structure.

Currently, both Shiites and Sunni Arabs are jealous of the status that Kurds have eked out in northern Iraq. In a recent statement, Nechirvan Barzani reminded of this fact when he said that Mosul should be given to Sunni Arabs. Today, Iraq is en route to an ethnicity- and religion-based division, not a federal division.

Problems will continue to linger even if Sunni and Shiite Arabs are given federal regions. Indeed, these federal regions do not have strong political traditions for protecting the unitary structure of Iraq.The status of Kirkuk is one of the issues that are destined to be real headaches.

In this picture, we can say that Kurds stand apart. As Massoud Barzani told CNN, so far only Kurds have exhibited the political will for the maintenance of Iraq’s unitary structure. There was never a big conflict between Kurds and Sunni or Shiite Arabs. Kurds never approved of the cruel methods of war, and in war, they never employed methods that would cause any harm to civilians. Therefore, Kurds’ relationship with Shiite or Sunni Arabs and Turkmens, or Syriacs never accommodated mutual hatred, ethnic hostility or rage.Following the occupation of Iraq, Kurds lent support to the central government. Jalal Talabani’s presidency contributed greatly to Iraq as it needed consensus and dialogue.

From the interview he gave to CNN, we understand that Kurds seem to have lost their belief in a united Iraq.Despite persistent questions, Barzani still refrained from using the word “independence.” Rather, he opted for “self-determination.”

But it is clear that the right to self-determination is far from strengthening the federal structure in Iraq.Indeed, the federal Kurdish region cannot find any addressee in the central government of Iraq. And such an addressee does not seem to be emerging in the near future.Given the international and regional conjuncture, Kurds had never been so close to declaring their independence. It appears that Kurds will use their right to self-determination for independence, but at a later date.