Sovereign Kurdish State in Iraq 'Would Serve US Plan for the Middle East'

© AFP 2022 / AHMAD AL-RUBAYEA flag of the autonomous Kurdistan region flies as Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters take position to monitor the area from their front line post in Bashiqa, a town 13 kilometres north-east of Mosul (File)
A flag of the autonomous Kurdistan region flies as Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters take position to monitor the area from their front line post in Bashiqa, a town 13 kilometres north-east of Mosul (File) - Sputnik International
US special envoy Brett McGurk said earlier that Washington is against a Kurdish independence referendum in Iraq. According to political analyst Mahmut Bozarslan, this statement does not reflect Washington’s actual goals in the Middle East.

The authorities of Iraqi Kurdistan will hold an independence referendum on September 25. On June 7, Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani met with all the political parties in Kurdistan and they agreed on a September date for the vote.

The initiative has sparked opposition from the Iraqi government and Iran. Turkey also expresses concerns, fearing that the upcoming referendum would galvanize the Kurdish problem on its territory.

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The United States sees the Kurds as an ally, including in the fight against Daesh in Syria and Iraq. Washington continues to provide support for the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), but at the same time avoids openly endorsing the Kurds’ push for independence in Iraq.

In July, US special presidential envoy Brett McGurk said that the Kurdistan Regional Government should not go forward with the planned referendum due to the complexities of keeping a cross-cultural, ethnic military coalition focused on its mission to defeat Daesh.

"We do not think the referendum should happen in September. Right now [Daesh] is not finished and we have to be clear about that," McGurk said at a press briefing.

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He explained that the referendum, held on such a fast timeline, would be destabilizing for Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting against terrorism.

According to Turkish political analyst Mahmut Bozarslan, McGurk’s statement was of a temporary nature and did not reflect the actual political situation.

"I can’t say that remark changed the balance of power in the region. I’ve talked to some Kurdish senior officials. According to them, Washington is not against the referendum and the statement [by special envoy McGurk] was of a temporary nature and served some immediate interests at the time," Bozarslan told Sputnik Turkey.

Commenting on Washington’s concerns, the expert pointed out that the US fears that if the Kurds establish an independent state the rest of Iraq would fall under the influence of Iran.

"I guess this was the main reason behind McGurk’s remarks. Taking into account the current situation in the Middle East, the US needs Kurds. So, I don’t think Washington is against the referendum. The US has invested a lot in the Kurds, including military and political support. Possibly, that statement also related to Washington’s strategy on Turkey," Bozarslan said.

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In an earlier interview with Sputnik, The Saker, a US-based top-level European military analyst and the author of the blog "Vineyard of the Saker," noted that the Kurds continue to remain the only force the US can rely on in Syria and Iraq.

"The Kurds are the only possible candidates for the role of 'boots on the ground' for the US. It is, therefore, no wonder that the Americans would try to use them in some way," The Saker told Sputnik.

The military analyst added, "That, in turn, implies that the Americans must give the Kurds something, such as a promise of some kind of more or less independent Kurdistan, to entice them to play this role."

According to Bozarslan, establishing a sovereign Kurdish state would serve Washington’s long-run plans for the Middle East.

"The US signals that its wants Iraq to be a federative state, but in fact Washington would prefer an independent Kurdish state over the weakened and politically unstable Iraq. Moreover, such a scenario would comply with Washington’s plan in the Middle East in the long run," he suggested.

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Commenting further, Bozarslan said that currently the situation in the Middle East is highly unstable and the US may be concerned over the possible risk of a Kurdish-Arab conflict if the referendum takes place.

"This may be another reason behind McGurk’s remark. On the other hand, I think that despite such serious concerns the US will not oppose the vote," the expert said.

In conclusion, Bozarslan assumed that if the referendum takes place its result would have an immediate effect on the Kurdish problem in Syria.

"Despite the fact that Damascus is focused on its domestic issues, the upcoming referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan is a matter of concern. If Kurds establish an independent state in Iraq this would immediately echo in Rojava [a de facto autonomous Kurdish region in northern Syria]," Bozarslan said.

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