January 31, 2013

A Kurdish State - to Be or Not to Be? So What Awaits Us?

The end. Beginning is here

So, the Arab spring flood had mustered its strength and washed away regimes in four countries. Now we are on the threshold of new, and perhaps, radical changes in Syria, Turkey, Iraq, to some extant in Iran, and in the whole Middle East!

The events in development allow suggesting that by November of this year, an independent Kurdish state may appear in Iraq, as well as Kurdish autonomies may emerge in the territory of one or two neighboring states. Kurds in Iraq have achieved independence. In Syria they are on their way to formation of autonomy. They have a very serious back up — the Iraqi Kurds provide training fighters for the “Syrian Kurdistan”, in every way helping them financially. If they reach the desired, it will be one of the consequences of geopolitical changes due to the “Arab Spring”.

It seems that the managers of the "Arab Spring" themselves did not expect such a turn of affairs. That is they expected a triumph, but it turned out, to put it mildly, a failure. It is unlikely that they dreamed to see in power in Egypt "Muslim brothers" or to witness the significant strengthening of the position of Islamists in several other states in the Middle East. What to do now with thousands of volunteers-Islamists fighting in Syria against the regime of Bashar al-Assad? Maybe that's why Washington "suddenly" began to “stir” and offers Ankara to discuss the issue on the Kurds? And what about his readiness to give "all possible help with weapons and means (i.e. money)," to the Syrian Kurds? It seems that Americans are too late, and the Kurds themselves decided how and what to do.

So what happened in Kurdistan at the turn of 2012 and 2013? If we follow the chronology, it all looks like this:

President of Iraq the Kurd Jalal Talabani
President of Iraq the Kurd Jalal Talabani

1. Late in the evening of Monday, December 17 last year Jalal Talabani had a stroke. According to the doctors, the health of Jalal Talabani, the President of Iraq, the leader of "the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan" (PUK) is stable, and he was getting better. For some time he was recovering in a Berlin clinic. D. Talabani’s disease had provoked a whole series of events and talks aimed at preventing a split in the PUK.

At present the situation prevailing in the PUK threatens with a serious struggle for power. In a competition can come together Bahram Salih and Kosrat Rasul — members of the government of Kurdistan. Jalal Talabani’s son —  Qubad will not refuse to take his father's place. He is a representative of the Kurdish Regional Government in the U.S.


Representative of Kurdistan Regional Government in USA Kubad Talabani

Representative of Kurdistan Regional Government in USA Kubad Talabani

Head of the detached from the PUK Group «Gorran» Nechirvan Mustafa is also in a range of the main contenders for the leader of Iraqi Kurdistan. Especially if we remember that it was N.Mustafa , who together with Jalal Talabani and Rasul Kosrat created PUK.

Group”Gorran” in 2009, taking the reformist anti-corruption platform, won the municipal elections in the province of Sulaymaniyah.

There is the assumption that there will be some tension in the issue of the election of a new president of Iraq after the death of D.Talabani. The matter is that a candidate for president of Iraq has to get blessing from Kurdistan leader Massoud Barzani, who cannot find a common language with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki over Kirkuk and other oil-rich regions of Kurdistan.

President of Iraqi Kurdistan Masoud Barzani
President of Iraqi Kurdistan Masoud Barzani

2. On the 18th of December the “Washington Post” published an article, "Iraq and the Autonomous Kurdistan on the brink of civil war." Why now out of all times? What made the author of the article to react so quickly?

3. Since December 25, the autonomous Kurdish region in Northern Iraq had stopped exporting oil. Because of a dispute with the central government on the payment for oil, in particular, because of the contract “Exxon Mobile”, signed with the Government of Kurdistan on development of oil fields in the debatable region of Kirkuk

The fact is that since 2003, the Kurds have concluded up to 50 transactions on oil exports. The Government of Iraq considers these deals illegal. In 2011, an agreement was reached by which the Kurds were giving away all the oil to Iraq and getting from the Government 50% of income from exports. In April 2012, the Kurds have sharply reduced oil exports, assuming that the Government owed them half billion dollars. In July of the same year, the Kurds, as a "goodwill gesture", allowed the export of oil, for which the Government promised to pay 848 million dollars in September. But it paid only 550 million.

The Kurds and Oil
The Kurds and Oil

A member of the Iraqi Parliament and confidant of Iraqi Prime Minister Sami al-Askari put it very clearly: if “Exxon Mobile” comes to this land, it will face the Iraqi army. "We do not want war, but we will fight for oil and sovereignty of Iraq" — promised al-Askari.

"We do not want war — said the President of Kurdistan Massoud Barzani, in his speech to the commandment of the armed forces of Kurdistan Peshmerga — but if the war comes to us, all the Kurds are ready to fight."


Peshmerga are ready to give an adequate respond
Peshmerga are ready to give an adequate respond

Units of the Peshmerga and the regular armed forces of Iraq moved toward each other and took positions on both sides of the border of Iraqi Kurdistan. On the 20th of December it became known that an agreement between the Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki and President of Iraqi Kurdistan Massoud Barzani, through the mediation of the U.S. and D.Talabani was reached on establishing a commission to resolve the conflict. On the 29th of December Kurds warned the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, on the inadmissibility of the deployment of Iraqi military units in the Kirkuk area (Southern Kurdistan). It seems that the bloodshed was avoided.

Three explosions hit Kirkuk-Yumurtalik oil pipeline
Three explosions hit Kirkuk-Yumurtalik oil pipeline

On the 9th of January, 2013, Iraqi Kurdistan began to export oil to the world markets via Turkey, using the Kirkuk — Yumurtalyn (Turkish province of Mardin), and on the 18th of January it was undermined by the fighters from the PKK.

4. On the 24th of December at page 7 of the Lebanese newspaper “The Daily Star” there was published an article by the editor of the Iraqi edition “Al-Sabah” and confidant of Iraqi Prime Minister Abd al-Jabbar Shabuta “A Kurdish state will be created, and Baghdad may recognize it”. In the article Shabut offered a plan of going out of the conflict situation in Iraq and the autonomous Kurdistan.


Turkey honoring the Kurds activists assassinated
Turkey honoring the Kurds activists assassinated

5. On the 9th of January at the information center of Workers Party of Kurdistan in Paris three Kurdish women were shot: PKK co- founder Sakineh Dzhansiz, Dogan Fidan and Leila Shaylemez. Representatives of the Turkish security forces were present at the funeral, but kept at a distance from the crowd of thousands, the Turkish newspaper «Hurriyet Daily News» wrote. It is believed that the killing of Kurdish activists will sharpen even more the already tense situation in the Kurdish regions of Turkey.

6. According to the news agency "Kurdistan.ru", for the past four weeks in January 2013 in three Iraqi provinces Al-Anbar, Ninawa, Salahuddin and in the Kurdish cities Diyalla, Mosul and Kirkuk mass protests against the policy of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki continued. Dozens of thousands of protesters demand that the Government should introduce real political reforms, not empty promises.

In Samarra city to the North of Baghdad alone, more than 20,000 protesters against the Iraqi Government went out into the streets. The reporter of the «Shafaaq News» agency reported from the scene, that the preacher of Samarra, Sheikh Mohammed Taha Talib in his Friday prayer called the Government to respond to the fair demands of the demonstrators.

Mass riots in Iraq
Mass riots in Iraq

7. The border with Jordan is getting closed.

8. In the Syrian city of Ras al-Ain that is situated at some five kilometers from the Turkish border, violent clashes between the Kurdish fighting groups and armed extremists from the Islamic group “Jebhat an-Nusra” do not stop. According to the channel «al-Mayadin» from January 20, 2013, the Islamists keep attacking this strategically important town in north-eastern Syria, where there is a highway linking the Kurdish frontier regions to Turkey, which helps the Syrian opposition.


Ras al-Ain in Fire
Ras al-Ain in Fire

Kurdistan National Council (KNC), uniting 12 parties and organizations, spoke to the commanders of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to immediately put an end to the war waged by extremists. In the statement they point out that the mercenaries fighting on the side of the Free Syrian Army, have become «an obedient tool in the hands of Turkey, pursuing its own goals in the conflict." Fresh Kurdish units from other Kurdish areas are thrown over to Ras al-Ain fresh Kurdish units. The basis of the Self-Defense Forces of Kurds make soldiers from the Kurdistan Democratic Union, which is thought to be closely related to the banned in Turkey Kurdistan Workers' Party.

Such events can give a start to scarcely probable, but quite possible and very painful processes in the whole Middle East:

1. Final split of Iraq into three federations with a weak, purely nominal authority of the federal center in Baghdad: Kurdish, Sunni and Shia. We mean here the Sunni region on the basis of Anbar, Mosul, Salahaddin and Diyala provinces. According to analysts, in these provinces, political activity of the Sunni is increasing against the background of the sharpened economic and political crisis, population’s rapid impoverishment and inactivity of the central government. As the Kurds’ autonomy has become a reality, and the autonomy of the Sunnis is unlikely, the appearance of a new Shia state formation in the eastern provinces of Iraq close to Iran undoubtedly will cause a very negative reaction of Sunni monarchies of the Persian Gulf. At that, the balance of forces in Iraq, where have already got formed the centers of the future autonomies, and the Kurdish autonomy, has not only got shaped as a successful public formation, but also has got a serious international recognition, setting a precedent for future Sunni and Shia autonomies, virtually eliminates a different way of solving problems of this country.

Of course, the process will move along in the Iraqi way — with complications, with agreements, which as usual, will be made not just at the last moment, but when actually the time for their adoption has gone. Still, we hope for a peaceful dialogue between the sides, solving and removing the key Iraqi problems of inter-confessional and interethnic relations. Moreover, unlike the central government of Iraq, who has closed borders to Syrian refugees, the leadership of Iraqi Kurdistan has opened borders to their fellows from "Syrian Kurdistan."

Iraqi Kurds hold real economic potential bypassing the central government, they independently export their oil. Thus, they have not only military power, but also economic one. By the way, the number of international companies signing contracts with Iraqi Kurdistan in the economic sphere keeps increasing.

Thus, the Kurds of Syria, Iraq, and Iran have now a powerful support. It can’t be said, of course, that the Kurds now dictate terms, but their positions for negotiations are very good. And this is confirmed!

Prime-Minister of Kurdistan Regional Government Nechirvan Barzani
Prime-Minister of Kurdistan Regional Government Nechirvan Barzani

According to the news agency «Shafaaq News» dated to January 24, 2013, the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Nechirvan Barzani met with representatives of other Kurdish parties and organizations, and discussed issues concerning the regulation of their relations. Thus, the current chairman of the “Patriotic Union of Kurdistan” Barham Salih and general coordinator of «Goran» Nechirvan Mustafa engaged in talks too. One of the questions of the negotiations was a new Constitution, which "must suit all the inhabitants of Kurdistan!"

On the eve of talks with the PUK and «Goran» Nechirvan Barzani met with the chairman of the "Islamic Group» Ali Bapir and General Secretary of the "Kurdistan Islamic Union" Muhammad Faraja and discussed the debatable issues on reforms and new laws that have national aspects. In fact, it was coordination of actions for the formation of the state of Kurdistan in Iraq!

President of "Exxon Mobil" Rex Tillerson
President of "Exxon Mobil" Rex Tillerson

Around the same time, the President of Iraqi Kurdistan Massoud Barzani, was in Switzerland at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he met with world leaders and officials of the world's leading companies. So, this was a meeting with the president of "Exxon Mobil" Rex Tillerson, during which the parties discussed the company's activities in Kurdistan and Iraq. It is noteworthy that the largest oil and gas company «Exxon Mobil» decided to concentrate on oil cooperation with autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, having given up their projects in Iraq. (Details: http://kurdistan.ru/2013/01/24/news-18042_ob.html)

Kurdish authorities indicated that it is ready to export the daily order of 1.5 million tons of oil. In the future, the Kurds are planning to become an independent player in the global hydrocarbon market. It's no secret that the profit they want to use, and to support the movement of all Kurds for autonomy. Baghdad is still considered such deliveries "contraband," complained an event. How can it like the fact that Kurdistan produces about 60% of Iraq's oil. Iraqi Kurdistan in the sixth-largest hydrocarbon reserves in the world (6.3 billion tonnes), but a little worried about the Kurds of Iraq official opinion. Holding them back is not a criticism of the central government, and poor infrastructure. Oil exports from Kurdistan to the Mediterranean Turkish port of Ceyhan is by ... truck. There is the Kirkuk — Ceyhan pipeline, but it is often blown PKK militants.

On the10-th of November 2012 Prime Minister of Iraqi Kurdistan Nechirvan Barzani led a high-level trade delegation to visit Iran. The purpose of the visit, according to a representative of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in Tehran Nazem Dabbagh, explore the possibilities for the development of trade relations with Iran. Barzani discussed ways to strengthen mutual trade exchange and economic cooperation between Kurdistan and Iran. By the way, in 2012, the trade turnover between Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan reached 4 billion U.S. dollars.

2. The emergence of a Kurdish federation in Syria, such as Iraqi Kurdistan, undoubtedly, would split the country, despite the ability to save in the hands of the Assad government in any form, even in the form of the Alavit state. This is not fantasy, but a sober forecast of development of the situation in Syria made by the Israeli military expert edition "Stripe", says KM.RU.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may agree with the creation of the Alavit state under Russian protectorate on the Mediterranean coast. In this case, a single Syria, of course, will sink into oblivion, disintegrated (Sunni, Kurdish, etc.), but many supporters Assad will find a public shelter. An additional guarantee will be presence of the Russian Fleet near Syria’s coasts with marinas on board.

"If Assad loses Syria as a whole, as a backup, he can gain a foothold in these Alavit areas, maintain sufficient combat capability of the army there, and even create a small Alavit militarized state — said the expert. It would be a good location — two ports, and support the Alavit population, which is nothing good in the care Assad is not expected, it is guaranteed — expert predicts.

Військово-морська база ВМФ РФ в Тартус, Сирія
Russian naval base in Tartus, Suria

And what about the Syrian Kurds? They are fighting Islamists and are trying to create autonomy, beginning with the question of formation of their armed forces. Obviously, they are familiar with Lenin's words that "every revolution only worth anything unless it can defend itself." "The main objective of our first army is to protect the Syrian Kurdistan from any armed intervention, whether Assad's forces, or forces the opposition Syrian Free Army, or the radical Islamist militants groups," — says the head of the classics of the Revolution Kurdistan National Council Shirko Abbas. According to the leader of the Syrian Kurds, the U.S. and Western European countries have agreed to provide military and financial support for the establishment of an independent Kurdish army, in order to prevent the spread of radical Islam in Syria.

Analysts advise the Syrian Kurds to unite under the unified leadership of the political council of the united only major Kurdish parties, taking into account the positive and negative experiences of Iraq (Southern) Kurdistan and advice to management in the region in the interests of the Kurdish people, including those living in Turkey and Iran. Of special importance should be given to the centralized coordination of strategy and tactics of all four regions of Kurdistan. The leader of the national liberation movement, of course, is South Kurdistan led by the political leadership of the region, but to give it the necessary strength can only be united efforts of all.

The Leader of PKK Abdullah Ocalan
The Leader of PKK Abdullah Ocalan

3. Home and fundamental transformation in Turkey, developments in neighboring Iraq and Syria have shown that the Kurds appeared auspicious moment to start negotiations with the Turkish authorities, who seem to demonstrate a willingness to come to the resolution of one of the most important domestic issues — Kurdish. Just a few days ago in the press reported that the Government almost openly started to negotiate with the leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan, for 13 years now, serving a life imprisonment in a Turkish prison.

However, despite the determination of Erdogan, the experts believe that the parties push each other too controversial demands which their opponents are unlikely to agree. However, according to «kurdistan.ru» referring to the Turkish media, the parties have approached the creation of a kind of a "road map" on which to act soon. Thus, the plan suggests the disarmament of fighters PKK and checks them from Turkey in exchange for the extension of rights of the Kurdish minority. Of course, the disarmament of the PKK fighters rather controversial and complex issues at stake. To negotiate Kurds need a rifle. Therefore, in the near future, it is unlikely that members of the PKK lay down their arms. By the way, Prime Minister Erdogan has declared that the Kurds who want to live in Turkey may freely leave the territory. Erdogan, in an attempt to play a proactive, can make a number of concessions in order to maintain stability in the country.

Kurdish demands include the establishment of educational institutions and courts carrying paperwork in Kurdish, securing ethnically neutral definition of Turkish citizenship in the text of the upcoming constitution, as well as the empowerment of the regional administration in areas densely populated by Kurds. In addition, it is reported that the Kurds demand the release of their leader Ocalan and thousands of his supporters who are in detention. However, despite all this, we can not exclude the option of creating a separate Kurdistan, which would fit in a new geopolitical balance of forces generated by the "Arab Spring." Two Kurdish autonomy in Iraq and in Syria today create the conditions to support the Turkish Kurds.

There is another point to be considered when predicting the situation in Iraq. It is the Iraqi President D.Talabani. Thus, prior to his illness at a meeting with a number of Kuwaiti journalists in Baghdad he claimed to have the possibility of separating Kurdistan from Iraq completely excluded, while stressing that the Kurds are mature, and "did not want to separate or independent, because it is impossible". The president said, “I'm the head of the party and my motto from day one has been self-independence ... But when we voted for the Constitution, we have exercised their right to self-determination by the federal.” D.Talabani also said that 95% of the Kurds voted for the constitution because it was federal answering the Kuwait’s question about geopolitical conditions that do not allow to form a Kurdish state in the region, Talabani said: "I have always said this parable extremists: if Kurdistan declares independence, Turkey, Iran and Iraq declared war on him, and just closed the border, which we do then? We will get choked for one simple reason — because there does not exist economic supply and infrastructure for independence. We like the current democratic system, the rights and freedoms", — concluded the President-Kurd Jalal Talabani of Iraq, thus possibly putting an end to his political career in a new and independent Kurdistan.

Certainly, Jalal Talabani, is one of the major figures in the history of post-Saddam Iraq. Lot — and at the local level in the complicated tandem Erbil and Sulaymaniyah, and the resolution of many problems at Baghdad was associated with Talabani. Beautiful negotiator and master of compromise, carry out their shuttle diplomacy in the country, divided by ethnic and religious lines, and prejudices, he demonstrated that it is indispensable in these contradictions torn Iraq. His role is great also and in Kurdistan, as that as it may, he belongs to the old guard of the party, which went through all the trials that befell the Kurds in the second half of XX century. It was the bloodiest century for the Kurdish people, any political error that that happened in Baghdad, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah, cost the lives of thousands of ordinary citizens.

 Different point of view has the President of Iraqi Kurdistan Massoud Barzani. Even on the eve of the holiday Nowruz (New Year) in March 2012, there were rumors that he was getting ready to proclaim the independence of the autonomous region, and in Brussels "on the case" to open an official representation of the regional government of Iraqi Kurdistan. Soon, however, the process slows down to reactivate these days.

Western analysts are already offering the Kurds concrete steps to realize their cherished dreams:

- hard to negotiate without ultimatums and on the principles of equal partnership;

- in advance to prepare a draft tripartite peace agreement suggesting creation of the Kurdish autonomous region in Turkey and Syria, as well as U.S. and Turkey commitments concerning the recognition and protection of the sovereignty of Southern Kurdistan since the release of the autonomous region of a federal Iraq and the proclamation of independence.

Besides, it would be very appropriate and important that the same agreement the U.S. and Turkey recognized the Supreme Political Council, headed by the president of the Southern Kurdistan permanent representative body guarantor of protection of political, social, economic, humanitarian, and national and cultural rights of the Kurdish people throughout the within the historic Greater Kurdistan. Such a peace treaty on the Kurdish issue, signed by the U.S., Turkey and South Kurdistan, should be further transferred to the UN Security Council to start the accession of other countries, thus encouraging the international community to show solidarity in the promotion of peace, security and cooperation in the Middle East.

Higher Political Council, which has long had to be established at a national conference, to struggle through peaceful means at the regional and international level for national-cultural, spiritual and historical unity of the Kurdish people, to defend the right of the people of South Kurdistan on independence, as well as the constitutional right people in the autonomous Kurdish government in the native territories of Turkey, Syria and Iran.

Natural resources, as noted earlier, comparable hydrocarbon resources with the best global performance. And this huge production capacity will allow Southern Kurdistan in the near future to integrate into the economy of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and greatly expand their market opportunities by involving three border regions in the Kurdish area of ​​transport and logistics, communications and physical infrastructure conducive to the establishment of long-term and mutually beneficial economic, financial, industrial and industrial relations in favor of countries-partners together with their member autonomies.

That's it, no more and no less, and already there are recipes of announcing Kurdistan. Now there is not much to do- to announce a New State established!

So, Southern Kurdistan is ready to cooperate with all countries on mutually acceptable terms in all areas of the economy — from extractive industries and to processing facilities, from commercial services to health care, medicine and pharmacology, from tourism to education and sports, ranging from agriculture to agriculture complex, etc.

 So what else can be offered to Kurdistan?