The original thinking behind the recently conducted referendum in Kurdistan was not to immediately separate from Iraq but to establish a better form of independence, similar to a confederate state. The Kurds thought that it would be an introductory step before a complete separation. The referendum also aimed to apply more pressure on Baghdad and unite the Kurds behind the leadership of Masoud Barzani.
Exactly the opposite happened, though.The Kurds failed to achieve their main goals, adding a new chapter to the series of failures. As a result, Barzani had no other choice but to step down, and hold his Kurd allies and rivals responsible for the fiasco. In his farewell note to the Kurdish people, Barzani accused both his allies and opponents of treason.
This new failure is likely to have grave repercussions on the future of the Kurdish issue mainly because with hardened positions on all sides, there is little to talk about regarding the disputed areas. Worse still, the future of the Kurdistan Region now hangs in the balance.
Pertinently, Kurdistan's referendum and its long-standing dream of an independent state managed to unify the ranks of those who opposed the move. This now gives them an upper hand and entitles them to make constitutional changes that may damage the unity of Kurdistan and the privileges previously obtained by the Kurds. There is no doubt that the Kurds represent an important component in political balance of Iraq, but they have played their strong card in a way that lacks a clear vision.
The inclination towards independence and separation is still a subject that sparks questions and intense debate in political circles. Some believe that the global consensus is more towards integration and forming large conglomerates politically, economically or financially, surpassing the rights of people to self-determination.
Anti-separation supporters cite examples of the failure of two past referendums - in Scotland and in the Canadian province of Quebec. This does not constitute a conclusive evidence of the validity of such a conclusion, though, as the two referendums were rejected just by a slim majority.
The two recent independence referendums - in the Iraqi Kurdistan region and in Spain's Catalonia - resulted in overwhelming victories for "yes" voters calling for secession. The success of Britain's exit from the European Union (EU) does not fit in with this arrangement. The decline in the momentum of globalisation over the last two decades has strengthened tendencies towards relocation in nation-states. In the recent years, many calls were made in several European countries to exit from the EU.
The Kurdish cause is a chronic issue in the region where Kurds comprise the largest ethnic group (in the Middle East) that demands an independent state. This issue has seen ups and downs since the early 20th century. Despite the strong rejection to their demands, the Kurds succeeded in keeping their cause alive, but they could not make noticeable achievements at significant epochs.
They are making achievements in Syria due to the ongoing-armed conflict there. Otherwise, they would not have succeeded. These small breakthroughs worry neighbouring countries, which not only reject the birth of a Kurdish State, but have deep reservations about any self-rule for the Kurds in the current context.
The Republic of Mahabad, a short-lived Kurdish self-governing state, which was founded in Iran's Kurdistan in 1946, was not an independent state but an autonomous entity. The Kurdish crisis has demonstrated that local powers are unable and perhaps not ready to change the geopolitical reality.
The rejection of the referendum in Iraq's Kurdistan - locally, regionally and internationally, will not change the reality of this problem. It continues to be an issue that cannot be written off by turning a deaf ear and not listening to its supporters."The Kurds will not give up their dream of an independent state. However, the way to achieve that would be more difficult and even slower ...""
The Kurds will not give up their dream of an independent state. However, the way to achieve that would be more difficult and even slower due to political, economic and military challenges facing them. But it is certainly not impossible to be achieved in the long run.
The referendum crisis is over for now - with Arbil retreaing, but Baghdad not having secured a triumph. What is required now is Iraq's victory, but there are many complexities involved. All parties must avoid fighting and lay the foundations for a political settlement - not in terms of a victorious or defeated side, but in the larger interests of all. A settlement should be reached, keeping in mind the well-being of all sections of Iraqi society.
The writer is an Iraqi writer based in Dubai
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