The president of the regional government of Iraqi Kurdistan on Thursday asked the autonomous parliament in Erbil to start working on the organization of a referendum on independence. “I ask your help to fix the date of a referendum on independence,” Massoud Barzani told lawmakers in a closed session, according to the Kurdish online newspaper Rudaw.
“You have to pass a law for the creation of an electoral commission as soon as possible,” insisted the Kurdish president, who also said that this type of query would fit into the current Iraqi constitution.
The Kurdish minority, which accounts for about 17% of Iraq’s population, has never hidden its desire to increase their autonomy from Baghdad began de facto in 1991 but made official after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. An informal referendum in 2005 received 98.8 % support for independence.
So far, their political representatives had expressed cautious on the subject, although the situation has changed substantially in recent weeks. “From now on, we will not hide that the goal is the independence of Kurdistan,” Barzani told two days ago the BBC, where he announced that his government was ” to hold a referendum in a few months.”
“There is nothing in our Constitution that is called self-determination,” said Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in a televised speech. ” Nobody has the right to take advantage of the situation, as has happened with some actions of the Kurdish region.”
On June 12, two days after the radical militia of the Islamic State (ISIS) took Mosul, Iraq’s second city, and then extended its control over parts of the country, the Kurdish security forces took advantage of the withdrawal of Iraqi soldiers and took Kirkuk. The authorities of the regional capital Erbil and Baghdad – Kurdish spent years over control of the city, the Iraqi Kurds consider their historical capital and also has huge oil reserves, estimated at 10,000 million barrels.
The export of oil is precisely one of the issues that divide the Kurdish government and Baghdad, which opposes any sale of Iraqi oil that is not managed by the central executive. This did not stop Erbil, which in late May and had begun to export its own oil on a large scale through the Turkish port of Ceyhan.
The first purchaser of that oil was Israel, according to sources cited by Reuters. “With regard to the Kurds, are a warrior but politically moderate nation, have been shown to be politically engaged and deserve to have a state,” he assured Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister, even though by the time or Erbil or Jerusalem have confirmed the transaction Kurdish oil. However, the support of Israel could be virtually unique in the region in case of a hypothetical statement of Kurdish independence. Both the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria and Iran, two countries with Kurdish minorities, have been traditionally hostile to the Kurds.
Turkey, the country with the largest Kurdish population in the area – some 15 million, 20% of the total, and now key regional government in Erbil trading partner, with whom he has signed an agreement for 50 years for crude oil exports, has days sending mixed messages. While a spokesperson for the ruling party, the moderate Islamist AKP , the Financial Times claimed that Turkey would welcome secession, the official line of Ankara opposes any division of Iraq. U.S. has always shown opposed the partition of the country. In addition, an independent Iraqi Kurdistan would be a landlocked country, with very basic infrastructure and completely dependent on oil, with 45,000 estimated by Erbil own reservations million barrels economy.
The Kurdish people have been waiting a century a moment. When most current boundaries were established in the Middle East after World War I, the Kurds eventually divided between Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, and are considered the largest stateless people in the world, with a population of about 30 million people.