Baghdad (GPA) – It seems the dream of ‘Kurdistan’ is called off for the time being.
Following September’s referendum, a brief standoff between the Iraqi army and Kurdish Peshmerga, and finally the resignation of Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani it now seems plans for an Iraqi Kurdistan Are now off the table. Obviously, this is already the case as far as the Iraqi courts and government are concerned, but Tuesday saw the Kurdish capital of Erbil finally capitulate to the ruling by Iraq’s Supreme Court declaring the independence referendum as illegal.
Striking a new tone, Erbil released a statement saying they’d honor the court’s decision but they still “believe that this decision must become a basis for starting an inclusive national dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad to resolve all disputes through implementation of all constitutional articles and in a way that guarantees all rights, authorities and status mentioned in the Constitution, since this is the only way to secure the unity of Iraq.”
Also in the statement from the Kurds, however, is a strange whitewashing of recent history in which according to Erbil, “we, in the Kurdistan Region, have always emphasized on finding solutions to disputes between the federal Authorities and the Kurdistan Region through constitutional and legal means.” Apparently forgetting the referendum was declared illegal before a single vote was cast.
Despite Erbil trying to portray this latest decision as if they are somehow the reasonable party it seems to be a direct response to a recent request by the Iraqi government asking that Erbil wouldn’t enact any policies that would be a “misinterpretation” of the constitution. This misinterpretation obviously referred to article 1 of the Iraqi constitution, which ensure that Iraq is “a single federal, independent and fully sovereign state.”
This policy reversal also comes on the heels of the failed secession which saw Kurdish Peshmerga flee from the Iraqi army on multiple. Most notable of all, of course, was the region around Kirkuk, where the Iraqi army quickly pushed the Kurds out of the city, airfield and oil fields.
Another possible factor in the Kurdish change of heart could also be due to pressure from their benefactors in the west. Apparently, this issue arose during a meeting yesterday between Kurdish Foreign Minister, Falah Mustafa and Brett McGurk, the US special envoy for the anti-Islamic State (IS) coalition.
Important: Clear #KRG statement respecting Iraqi Supreme Court's recent decision interpreting Article 1 of the Iraqi constitution and calling for dialogue to resolve all disputes on the basis of the constitution. https://t.co/KJKeH8g1fl?amp=1
— Brett McGurk (@brett_mcgurk) November 14, 2017
There is no appeal process available to Erbil in the Iraqi courts, which at least puts Kurdish ambitions on hold. However, it is unlikely the Kurds won’t try for independence again sometime in the future, but this at least means the move is delayed for now, as it should be during this crucial period of Iraqi development.
James Carey is an organizer based in Detroit, Michigan, founder of Geopolitics Alert, and an experienced analyst on Middle Eastern affairs with a particular focus on Turkey. He also covers topics ranging from Latin America and Asia to Europe. You can also hear James in his weekly podcast; The Left is Dead which he co-hosts with investigative journalist Jake Anderson.