23:07 GMT27 September 2020
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    With a referendum on the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan due in October-November 2017, Russian experts continue to comment on the possible emergence of a new independent state in the Middle East.

    The Kurds, the largest ethnic minority in Syria, Iraq and Turkey, are striving to create their own independent state.

    Kurdistan in Iraq was created in 1970, in what was based on an agreement with the Iraqi government and ended years of fighting. Iraqi Kurdistan  gained autonomous governance status as part of the 2005 constitution, but is still considered part of Iraq.

    On Friday, Hoshawi Babakr, representative of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Russia, told Sputnik that a referendum on the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan may be held in October-November of this year.

    In Search for the Thief of Baghdad

    The supporters of Iraqi Kurdistan leader Masoud Barzani intended to hold a referendum on independence in 2014, but the issue was removed from the agenda due to a Daesh offensive in the region at the time.

    With Daesh currently losing its clout in Iraq, Kurds continue to speak out against the systematic discrimination they face by Baghdad, adding that the only way out is to try to gain independence.

    Hoshawi Babakr told Sputnik that "Iraqi authorities are using financial leverage in order to exert pressure on Iraqi Kurdistan, limiting revenues from the budget."

    He said that Kurdish authorities are not authorized to issue their own banknotes and that the country's constitution stipulates allocating 17 percent of the national income for the needs of the region, something that Babakr said is not being implemented by Baghdad.

    He slammed Iraqi authorities for failing to support the Kurds during the war with Daesh in 2014 when there was a possibility of the terrorists seizing the Iraqi Kurdistan capital of Erbil.

    According to Kurdish sources, Baghdad has repeatedly said "no" to lending financial assistance to the Kurdish militia Peshmerga.

    Untimely Independence

    Iraqi authorities, for their part, describe the actions by the Kurds as treacherous, saying that Daesh is yet to be defeated and that holding an independence referendum under such conditions is unacceptable.

    Also, Baghdad blamed the Kurds for allegedly developing ties with Israel and trying to create a "pro-Israel foothold."

    In an interview with Sputnik, Russian security expert Stanislav Ivanov specifically pointed to Iran being up and arms against Erbil's independence. He recalled that Tehran has repeatedly used force to suppress the unrest caused by the Kurds' actions in the past.

    Baghdad, meanwhile, pointed out that when fighting Daesh, the Kurdish Peshmerga took control of the territories that are beyond the previously established limits of Iraqi Kurdistan.

    Kurds consider all the occupied lands to be their own and intend to hold a referendum on all of them. Iraqi authorities speak of usurpation and warn that they do not recognize self-determination in territories recently captured by Peshmerga.

    Baghdad insists that these provinces are home to not only Kurds, but also Arabs and Turkmens.

    Experts say that apart from the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan, it is the status of these "new territories", especially that of the city of Kirkuk, which will become a stumbling block in future negotiations on independence.

    According to Russian political analyst Dmitry Zhantiyev, Turkey is ready to recognize Iraqi Kurdistan but only on the condition that the Kurds abandon the territorial expansion, which is potentially capable of moving beyond Iraq.

    Turkey and the Kurdish Problem

    The semi-independent Iraqi Kurdistan remains one of Turkey's key economic partners, with Ankara providing symbolic signs of respect toward Iraqi Kurdistan leader Masud Barzani.

    During Barzani's recent trip to Istanbul, the flag of his officially unrecognized state was raised in a move that what was beyond diplomatic protocol.

    Turkish authorities' attitude to Syrian Kurds is absolutely different. On May 10, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed that he considers the People's Protection Units (YPG), which controls the territories on the Turkish-Syrian frontier, a terrorist group.

    Ankara is outraged by the fact that the US is supplying Kurdish fighters with weapons, with Erdogan warning that "our patience is running out."

    The Kurdistan Workers' Party" (PKK) operating on Turkish territory is also blacklisted by Ankara as a terrorist organization. PKK former leader Abdullah Ocalan is currently serving a life sentence in a Turkish prison.

    Against this background, the Kurdish community in Russia is split between Iraqi, Turkish and Syrian compatriots.

    Yury Nabiyev, President of the Society of Solidarity and Cooperation with Kurdish People told Sputnik that he is ready to support the struggle of the Iraqi Kurds, but not the PKK.

    "This organization does not fight for our independence. Besides, we should bear in mind the fact that there are a lot of Kurds in Erdogan's administration," he said.

    Babakr, for his part, told Sputnik that the authorities of Iraqi Kurdistan would like UN representatives to monitor the referendum on independence.

    "Now an attempt is underway to appeal to the UN, so that representatives observe the referendum, so that it is held in a more legitimate manner, which is why its organization is a little delayed," Babakr said.


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    clout, referendum, Kurds, independence, YPG, PKK, Masoud Barzani, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Iraqi Kurdistan, Turkey, Iraq
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