Knowing Kurdistan: 8 Days



Sun, 17 Sep 2017 - 01:20 GMT


Sun, 17 Sep 2017 - 01:20 GMT

FILE PHOTO:Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi delivers remarks at the morning ministerial plenary for the Global Coalition working to Defeat ISIS at the State Department in Washington, U.S., March 22, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

FILE PHOTO:Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi delivers remarks at the morning ministerial plenary for the Global Coalition working to Defeat ISIS at the State Department in Washington, U.S., March 22, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

CAIRO - 17 September 2017: Iraq is prepared to use military measures if the Kurdish independence referendum results in violence, Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told the Associated Press during an interview on Saturday.

If the Iraqi population is "threatened by the use of force outside the law, then we will intervene militarily," he said. Al-Abadi called the vote "a dangerous escalation" that will invite violations of Iraq's sovereignty.

"If you challenge the constitution and if you challenge the borders of Iraq and the borders of the region, this is a public invitation to the countries in the region to violate Iraqi borders as well, which is a very

dangerous escalation

," al-Abadi continued.

In the public eye, al-Abadi has maintained a constitutional stance regarding the referendum, frequently citing the codified laws of Iraq.

When asked if he would ever accept an independent Kurdistan, Al-Abadi said: "It's not up to me, this is a constitutional" matter.

"If [Iraq's Kurds] want to go along that road, they should work toward amending the constitution," al-Abadi said. "In that case we have to go all the way through parliament and a referendum to the whole Iraqi people.”

Join Egypt Today as we bring you daily updates and analysis of the upcoming independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan.
People celebrate to show their support for the upcoming September 25th independence referendum in Duhok, Iraq September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Ari Jalal

Al-Abadi has also maintained an open stance in respect for negotiations.
"It will make it harder and more difficult," he said, but added: "I will never close the door to negotiations. Negotiations are always possible."

“All the gains of the Kurds are under threat; I am kindly asking our Kurdish brothers to retreat. The referendum opens the door wide for a lack of respect for Iraqi borders and the Iraqi constitution, and the referendum encourages other countries and bodies to intervene in Iraqi affairs, which is unacceptable,” al-Abadi said on Saturday on Kurdish television.

Turkey has maintained its hostile position towards the referendum, threatening reprisals.

The Kurdish independence referendum on September 25 is “a matter of national security” to Turkey, and no-one should doubt that Ankara “will take all necessary steps on this matter,” said Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Saturday.

A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter launches mortar shells towards Zummar, controlled by Islamic State (IS), near Mosul September 15, 2014 - REUTERS. Ahmed Jadallah.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said over the weekend that Ankara would not allow Iraq’s territorial integrity to be threatened; a stance taken my many state leaders.

The UK Foreign Office said that London would not support the plan to hold the independence referendum on September 25, in a statement issued on Saturday.

“The referendum risks increasing instability in the region when the focus should be on defeating Daesh,” said the statement, referencing a different name for the Islamic State terrorist group.

A high level Saudi delegation, led by Thamer al-Sabhan, Saudi’s Arab Gulf Affairs minister, met with Kurdish President Masoud Barzani on Saturday, expressing Saudi Arabia’s willingness to lay the ground for dialogue and mediation between Erbil and Baghdad.

“But one thing that is surprising to me is, I wish I knew since when have you become so worried about the territorial integrity of Iraq, the sovereignty of Iraq, and the constitution of Iraq?" Barzani asked rhetorically during a rally in the province of Duhok on Saturday evening. "This is important to me since these days these [things] have become important to our neighbors."


Prime Minister al-Abadi has maintained a strong constitutional outlook in regards to the Kurdish independence referendum, and his warning of possible conflict is not unjustified. The 2005 Iraqi constitution does not allow a formal and entrenched division of the Iraqi territory, thus not facilitating the creation of a state within a state. The Prime Minister of any country should hold the law of the land in the highest regard, and this is what al-Abadi contends. If the referendum does spark violence, it is justified for al-Abadi to send security forces.

Yet, this is where the contention arises. One major factor that supports Kurdish independence in Iraq is the success of the Kurdish Peshmerga – the Iraqi Kurdish security forces – in its anti-Islamic State campaign. If conflict does arise in Kurdish territories in the immediate fall-out of the referendum, the Peshmerga forces have proven themselves to be in a stronger position than the Iraqi army in providing security.

Although fully within his rights, as

authorized by Parliament

, al-Abadi is able to send security forces to Kurdish held territories, however this would be interpreted as a highly aggressive move, and would likely lead to conflict between the Peshmerga and Iraqi forces.

What must be avoided at all cost is the participation of the

Popular Mobilization Forces

(PMF) in any eventuality which may arise in northern Iraq. Many PMF forces are allied to Iran, and would be viewed as incredibly hostile by the Kurdish leadership. The rhetoric of Shiite militia leaders has been aggressive and hostile up until now, and along with a poor human rights record, the involvement of the PMF sharply increases violent tensions. Not only this, it would also show the weakness of the Iraqi state itself in mediating disputes and maintaining security, thus enhancing the legitimacy of the Kurds in demanding their own state.

VICTORY: A member of the Kurdish peshmerga just after the forces retook Zumar in October 2014 - REUTERS. Ari Jalal

A nation-state is driven by the passion of the heart, something which al-Abadi appears to be unable to grasp. Young Kurds in particular share little in common with their Iraqi neighbor. Their myths are Kurdish myths, not Iraqi legends. Their songs are Kurdish songs, not Iraqi and in the Arabic language. Their faith lies in the Peshmerga, not the Iraqi army or the PMF. Their history lies in Kurdish unity, not an alliance with a historically brutal Baghdad.

A nation is a large group of people with strong bonds of identity, an "imagined community” in the words of Benedict Anderson. Kurds have been a unified community far longer than the ‘modern’ – 1932 – state of Iraq. They are a nation, yes, but not a nation-state: not yet.

In other news:

A car bomb exploded in Kirkuk killing an estimated three civilians and wounding several others, on Saturday night.

Iraqi security force inspect the site after a car exploded in Kirkuk, Iraq, September 16, 2017. REUTERS/Ako Rasheed

Barzani has repeatedly threatened violence if "any force" attempts to move into the disputed territories which are now under the control of the Kurdish Peshmerga, specifically the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

"It's chaotic there [Kirkuk]," Muhammad Mahdi al-Bayati, a senior leader of Iraq's mostly

Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces

, said earlier this week.

"Everyone is under pressure," he continued. "Anything could be the spark that burns it all down."

Kurdish Peshmerga forces seized a large number of weapons which were about to be smuggled into Kirkuk over Saturday night, according to Basnews.

It is

alleged that Shiite militias

were attempting to smuggle the weapons into Kirkuk.



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