Former anti-IS envoy says Kurdish independence referendum was no surprise for US

THE REGION  – 5 Dec 2017 –  A former U.S. special anti-ISIS envoy said on Friday that the 25th September independence referendum that was held in Iraqi Kurdistan was no surprise to the United States Government or anyone else.  Retired General John Allen made the statements during the Saban Forum.

“I don’t think it was a surprise to anyone that Masoud Barzani wanted to have an independence referendum. We always expected it,” he said at the annual gathering that brings American and Israeli leaders to discuss the matters shaping West Asia. “In fact, when Daesh invaded Iraq in ’14 and it looked like Iraq was going to go under, frankly, we thought for a moment that the Kurds were going to run a referendum.”

Allen said that the plan to declare an independence referendum was going to happen in 2014, but the United States had meetings with the Kurdish leadership to prevent such a move from taking place.

“We talked them out of it at that particular moment because we needed for Iraq not to become much more fragmented. We needed to create the environment of unity. You know our view was this is not the time for the KRG, the Kurdistan Regional Government, to go independent for a variety of reasons,” he added.Moreover, he said that Iran and Turkey were and are still very heavily opposed to such a Kurdish state.“The region probably doesn’t need another microstate, a state which in the view of the Turks, for example, could become a platform for continued operations of the PKK against Turkey. The Iranians would be very concerned about that microstate becoming a platform for influence that might operate with respect to Iran. And the Kurds and Iraqis are going to still need to be able to reconcile the outcome of the fighting,” he added.

Therefore, he argued that if the Kurds would become independent, a lot of fighting would occur. He mentioned how many Kurds began to see their struggle being intimately tied to the land.“Wherever Peshmerga blood was shed, that remains Kurdish territory. And if they had gone independent, I think we would probably have seen a great deal more fighting,” he said.Speaking on the decision made by Kurds in north Iraq to postpone their independence initiative, Former General John Allen says the United States was “relieved.”“We all breathed a sigh of relief that they chose not to try to implement it at that particular moment.” Allen said, “[But] That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be independent someday.” he said.

Speaking Frankly, John Allen reiterated the position of the Trump Administration.  “Right now, I think it’s far too unstable politically and militarily for that to occur” he concluded. The Iraqi Kurds held a referendum on 25 September in which disputed territories were also included. An overwhelming majority, nearly 93 percent, voted in favour of secession from Iraq.

After the referendum, Iraqi security forces and Shia paramilitary groups backed by Iran and Turkey took over the disputed territories, including Kirkuk, known as the heart of Kurdistan among Kurds, and imposed sanctions on the Kurdistan region, closing the international airports.