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Kurdish referendum

Editorial |

It is ever so open to question whether the Kurds in Iraq will be able to exercise the right to selfdetermination in accord with the UN Charter. Whatever the eventual outcome of the vote, Monday’s referendum must be deemed to be significant not least because they enjoy a high degree of autonomy within the fractious country.

For far too long have they contended with a subordinate status despite the fact that in recent times the Kurds have played a critical role in the fight against ISIS, which originated in and then surged from Iraq.

Small wonder they now demand recognition for their valiant efforts in order to give them leverage over the Western powers. As it turns out, the international response to the referendum has been decidedly negative.

Within the broken and divided nation, the overwhelming swathe of Iraq is predictably opposed to the vote. Further afield, the US, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the UK, the EU and the Arab League have been against the referendum, with the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, threatening military intervention as “Kurdish independence is unacceptable to Turkey and this is a matter of survival”.

The implications of the referendum will, therefore, transcend the borders of Iraq. The collective fear is embedded in possible destabilisation and an inevitable bout of internal turmoil that could well be manifest in Kurdish secessionism and yet more ethnic divisions.

Not least because the vote covers the disputed territories that the Kurds have gained in the almost relentless battle against ISIS over the past two years. This today is an explosive issue in the equation between the Kurds and the beleaguered government in Baghdad, which claims the territories captured by the ethnics from the Caliphate. It is, in a sense, a struggle for the mastery of land. The outcome of the referendum is not binding.

Nor for that matter will it immediately bring about independence. But it does mark a definite stance by the Kurds to break away, indeed to get rid of the Iraqi yoke. It is possible that a “yes” vote will prompt the Kurdish leaders to negotiate for self-rule with the Iraqi government. The referendum is “not the end in itself”, but the shrill for independence will almost certainly be stepped up in the event of victory. Negotiations deserve to be given a try.

The Kurds want a UN-mandated solution, with a clear agenda that will put them on course to independence ~ verily the consummation they devoutly wish. The road to freedom will entail what they call an “enforceable deal” on sharing oil revenues.

This was agreed upon after the Iraq war in 2003, but never followed up. Despite the fact that several countries are ranged against Kurdish independence, the geopolitical reality must be that this ethnic segment can’t languish in a state of permanent subjugation.