These days, Iraqi Kurds are commemorating the third anniversary of the holding of the secession referendum, and although most of them voted in favor of secession with a rate of 92.73% and a participation of 72%, Baghdad’s rejection of it caused a change in the map of their lives and their political, economic and social conditions.
The referendum was also met with strong opposition from the United States and several Western countries, fearing that it would destabilize the region and create a new conflict with Baghdad, and at that time former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson formally asked the region’s president at the time, Massoud Barzani, to postpone the referendum, and later confirmed that his country did not recognize its results. For his lack of legitimacy.
Reassurances from the Kurds
Before the referendum, the former Kurdistan Regional Security Council advisor, the current prime minister, Masrour Barzani, said that the decision to separate is the decision of the Kurds with all their national and religious components, noting that the courage of the Peshmerga forces in the war against terrorism showed the world that the Kurds deserve to have an independent state.
He stressed that “the Kurds will not pose a threat to the countries of the region and do not want to change the existing international borders between Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria. They want to draw new borders between the region and the rest of the Iraqi regions, without harming the interests of any party or other country.”
Baghdad seized large areas of the disputed areas in accordance with Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution, which have been under the control of the region since 2003, including Kirkuk, which is rich in oil, in addition to the provinces of Nineveh, Diyala and Salah al-Din, after the referendum, as well as taking a series of strict measures against the region, including handing over the airports in it. And an air ban was imposed on it, and all international flights to and from Iraqi Kurdistan were stopped.
After the intensification of the conflict between Baghdad and Erbil, and dozens of dead and wounded from the ranks of the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi army in fierce battles in the disputed areas, including Kirkuk, the regional government issued about a month after the referendum was held, a statement in which it offered to freeze the results of the region’s secession, an immediate ceasefire, and the start of an open dialogue between Regional government and the central government in Baghdad.
Among the points that were negatively recorded in the referendum was the inappropriate timing, and the Kurds were never successful in this regard, so it reflected negatively on them and on the bilateral relationship between Erbil and Baghdad, which prompted the government of then Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to use force for the first time and enter a direct military confrontation with Peshmerga, a situation that has not happened since 1991.
The referendum also inflicted heavy losses on the region, including the loss of about 51% of the disputed areas, including Kirkuk, which is rich in oil, as well as economic losses.
The Kurds no longer have any hope of regaining control over these areas, as Kurdish political analyst Laund Jalal Agha says, confirming to Al Jazeera Net that the referendum had no positive aspects for the Kurds, reinforcing his opinion with the recognition of the former head of the regional government, Nechirvan Barzani, of the Federal Court’s decision, which considered the referendum an explicit legal violation. He froze its results and canceled its work.
The Kurdish political leadership retreated from the referendum and did not stick to it. What confirms this – according to Agha – is its support for the decision of the Iraqi Federal Court, as well as the statements of the Kurdish leadership and officials in the constitutional institutions in the region that Kurdistan is part of Iraq.
And before the referendum, the region had – as Agha sees it – a distinct political entity through which it was able to conclude political, military and economic agreements with several international parties, but Kurdistan did not return these characteristics after the decision to secede, describing the referendum as a “fatal political mistake” for the Kurds, despite the alternatives. Which was presented to their leaders by American and European officials.
The Kurdish political analyst ruled out achieving nationalism in a country like Iraq – which has turned into an arena for international political and intelligence conflicts – its independence with this ease unless it previously obtained direct support from the United States, the Arab League and European countries, and the opposite can be considered a strategic error.
Agha stresses that the referendum downplayed the region, as the Iraqi government was forming in Erbil after the elections, but after the decision to secede, the region was awaiting payment of the salaries of its employees from the federal government, and control became Baghdad and not Erbil.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party led by Masoud Barzani began its steps towards the referendum at a time when the region was facing difficulties and was going through multiple crises, most notably financial and economic, in addition to the war against the Islamic State and its remnants and its consequences, and it would have been better to address these problems, as the civil activist Haseeb Sheikh Sadr sees Religion, and then resorting to the option of the secession referendum.
A family dream
In general, the secession needs an appropriate ground and a calm atmosphere and is acceptable to all segments and societal groups in the region, and with it the political parties. However, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) conducted the referendum without the approval or consultation of some of the main political parties in Kurdistan and did not obtain a general consensus, with the world’s rejection of the absence of favorable conditions.
The Kurdish democrat – as Sadr al-Din sees it – hastened the referendum decision and wanted to record a historical event for one family only (referring to the Barzani family) if the matter succeeds, and if the opposite happens, the citizen is the one who pays the tax.
In response to a question by Al-Jazeera Net whether the referendum was a national or partisan project for the Kurds, Sadr al-Din says that the decision to secede came in order to achieve the interest of one party in Kurdistan, noting that the referendum could have been a national project when it is in the interest of everyone and is not reflected negatively. On citizens.
The stubbornness of the Kurdish democracy with Baghdad and the worsening of political conflicts at the time between the two parties pushed the decision to hold a referendum for secession, as Sadr al-Din explains, pointing out that the Kurds have not yet reached the stage of separation and the establishment of the state, in the absence of the basic ingredients.