Following through on a long-desired promise to have a country of their own Kurds in the Kurdistan region of Iraq and Syria have finally been able to place votes for independence. The desire to have their own country has been an objective of Kurds since the end of world war one, and remain the only ethnic group to not have their own country.
There are approximately 30 million Kurds who have been spread across five countries. The first vote came from the semi-autonomous region in Northern Iraq who voted over 92percent in favor for independence. The independence vote is a threat to the Iraqi government as the Kurd’s region is dominated by oil, a valuable natural resource.
The vote took place in the northern city of Erbil close to the Iranian border with Iraq. Approximately 3 million people live in the Northern region of Iraq which is officially seen as “semi-autonomous.”
“Let’s engage in a serious dialogue and become good neighbors,” Kurdish President, Masoud Barnzani said following the results. Several countries including the United States, Iraq Syria, and Turkey have come out in strong opposition to the referendum.
The Kurdistan people make up approximately 30 million of the population between Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran. Voting for the independence movement has united some unlikely allies against the Kurds as the split from Baghdad would mean a tremendous amount of oil lost for many of the countries that are neighboring the region.
Baghdad and Turkey have threatened to shut down air space, along with Turkey threatening to implement a trade embargo if the Kurds finalize their vote and go through with independence. The Kurds have been an invaluable asset in the fight against IS in Syria and Iraq and peshmerga forces have been one of the most loyal fighters the United States could rely upon in the struggle in the region.
“We don’t want a fight between Iraqi citizens,” Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi said in a response to the voting. Iraq sees the Kurds technically as citizens of their country even though they have long desired their own home.
In threatening the Kurds, Iraq has joined Turkey with being a country that has threatened to use or has use violence against the Kurds in a measure to suppress their goals for an autonomous state. Turkey started conducting military action against the PKK in March of 2017 in hopes of what it termed “not containing but completely destroying the group who is composed of Kurds and is seen as a threat to the Turkish government.
“We are living through the most successful period of our 35 year old struggle against the PKK,” Turkish defense minister Fikri Isik said regarding the military operations. Turkey and the PKK have been fighting since 1984 when the PKK started its struggle for independence inside of Turkey.
“In the period since July 23, 2015, more than 10,500 terrorists have been neutralized. This is a major success. The terror outfit has been rendered incapable of carrying out operations. We are going to break their spine and take all measures to make sure that they will never threaten this country again,” Isik continued in the response.
The PKK is a multi-country political party found in Turkey and Iraq, and is considered a rebel group in both countries.
According to the PKK’s website, they are technically listed as a terrorist organization under NATO, the EU, and the United States.
However, despite this, there are some in the U.S who have called on the world to respect the vote. “Monday’s historic vote in the Kurdistan Region should be recognized and respect in the world,” U.S Senator Chuck Schumer said about the vote.
The Iraqi parliament has also authorized the movement of Iraqi troops to the area. Several major oil pipelines travel through the region making it strategically important for the development and outsourcing of oil in the region and world oil markets.
PKK beliefs are rooted in Socialism; however, they have been a valuable ally in the fight against IS.
Ultimately, the United States should tread carefully in this situation even though the Peshmerga Kurds have been a tremendous ally in the fight against IS, we should be willing to acknowledge their independence but make sure their goals are legitimate and to make sure they aren’t setting up a state that will become dictatorial like that in Syria and or Turkey two of the very states they are fighting against.
Links to sources:
- The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/27/over-92-of-iraqs-kurds-vote-for-independence
- Al-Monitor: https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/en/originals/2017/06/turkey-army-new-rural-terrain-offensive-against-pkk.html
- The Kurdish Project.org: https://thekurdishproject.org/latest-news/us-senator-chuck-schumer-calls-independent-kurdish-state/
- Rubin Center.org: https://www.rubincenter.org/2013/08/the-main-kurdish-political-parties-in-iran-iraq-syria-and-turkey-a-research-guide/
- CNBC: https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/26/a-small-region-in-iraq-just-became-one-of-the-oil-markets-biggest-concerns.html