The Kurdistan Referendum Does Not Presume "A Split of Iraq"

 All the neighbors of Iraq - Turkey, Iran, Syria – declared their opposition to the referendum on the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan, which is scheduled for September 25. There are fears that it can become a precedent for the entire Kurdish population and provoke a chain reaction in these countries. However, according to the Valdai Club expert Kirill Vertyaev, Director of the Department of Kurdish Studies at the Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Science, the referendum does not presume "a split of Iraq. "Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Iran exist according to their own laws, which are not always indubitable", the expert said in a written comment to

The referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan does not presume "a split of Iraq." This is primarily a procedure of expression of will. There will not be the automatic proclamation of the secession of Kurdistan - there should be a long period of negotiations and bargaining over the peaceful "divorce" with Baghdad. However, I do not exclude the possibility of unilateral proclamation of the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan soon after the referendum, which will automatically turn it into an unrecognized state.

Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Iran exist according to their own laws, which are not always indubitable. Kurds in Syria and Turkey consider the Barzani clan in many respects as their ideological rival. The leader of the Workers' Party of Kurdistan Abdullah Ocalan generally opposes the creation of a Kurdish national state, insisting on the implementation of the concept of democratic confederalism within the boundaries of existing states.

On the other hand, if proclamation of the Kurdistan’s independence is painless, this experience will undoubtedly cause a strong patriotic rise among the Kurds from Turkey, Syria, Iran. However, the painless declaration of independence will not occur due to the lack of clearly fixed political boundaries of the territory of Iraqi Kurdistan, because of the existence of territorial disputes around the oil-rich and multinational Kirkuk (Taamim province), inhabited by the Yazidis of Shangala.

From the geopolitical point of view, the elites from Baghdad and Erbil need to agree peacefully on the divorce or distribution of powers and responsibilities in the federal Iraq. This is the position of Russia, but in my opinion, the prospect of preserving Iraqi Kurdistan as part of Iraq is continuously moving to zero.

As to Russia's position on this issue, the oil (i.e., economic) factor prevails over the political factor. After the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Russia decided to write off a multi-billion dollar debt of Iraq and it must compensate its losses through economic cooperation with the Iraqi Kurdistan or Baghdad, regardless of the political status of the Iraqi Kurdistan. Russia considers it an internal affair of the Iraqi state.

Positions of other countries regarding the status of Iraqi Kurdistan after the referendum with obvious results are in the process of formation, but the overwhelming majority of countries oppose the unilateral secession of the Iraqi Kurdistan from Iraq.

Kurdistan Referendum: Changing the Status Quo Hemin Hawrami
This referendum is for the Iraqi Kurdistan and has nothing to do with other Kurds in other countries. It is true as Kurds are one nation, but the reality is that we have been divided into four parts after the WWI. Since then each part has its own circumstances.

Referendum before the victory over ISIS

An obvious desire of the Iraqi Kurdistan elites is to hold a referendum before the final victory over ISIS, after which all regional and global players will activate a new redistribution of political influence in the Middle East. Thus, by the preemptive will of the population at the referendum the Iraqi Kurdish elites will prevent possible "second Sykes-Pico" pact (the analogy of the agreement on the division of spheres of influence in the Middle East after the First World War), because the Kurdish statehood in the north of Iraq can be sacrificed for the momentary aspirations and national interests of both neighboring states and major powers.

The Kurdish elites understand that the war with ISIS simply will not end. It has the prospect to be transformed into a Sunni-Shiite conflict in Iraqi territory and the Kurds do not want to participate in it. No one can condemn Slovenia, which in 1990 left Yugoslavia and escaped the fate of being dragged into a civil war.

According to the interests of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan and the Barzani clan it is extremely advantageous to hold a referendum before the presidential elections in Kurdistan, which will be held in November.

Masud Barzani consistently implements the doctrine of his father - Mustafa Barzani, who aspired for the national independence of the Kurds. Masud Barzani said recently that neither he nor his family members will participate in the elections, although the current prime minister of the Iraqi Kurdistan and his nephew, prime-minister Nerchivan Barzani have good chances to win the presidential race.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.