Breaking up Iraq

BAGHDAD/ERBIL/BERLIN | | irak

BAGHDAD/ERBIL/BERLIN (Own report) - The regional government in Kurdish-speaking northern Iraq, which enjoys Berlin's support, is calling for breaking up the country and establishing its own state. A referendum on secession is a "natural, God-given right of the people in Kurdistan," declared Masoud Barzani, President of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). The issue is national independence, KRG Foreign Minister Falah Mustafa underlined. Consultations on these topics were allegedly held on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. Barzani explicitly does not include Syrian and Turkish Kurdish-speaking regions in his plans to establish a state. Experts have long been warning against the possibility of Iraq's disintegration or being plunged into a new civil war, once IS/Daesh is defeated. The KRG can rely on Germany's legwork, in its demand for national independence. Berlin has been particularly keen to support the Kurdish-speaking regions in Iraq and has even trained and armed the KRG's military forces, the "Peshmerga," since September 2014 - within the framework of the war against IS/Daesh. Berlin has consistently ignored human rights organizations and US experts' allegations that, in the wake of this war, the Peshmerga is carrying out "ethnic cleansing," to expel unwelcome Arabs from its "Kurdistan" of tomorrow.

Before the Next Civil War

Observers have long been warning that, once the major city of Mosul is recaptured, Iraq could disintegrate or be plunged into a new civil war with new fronts caused by Iraq's deep socio-political divisions resulting from the 2003 US aggression and subsequent occupation. The country has, in fact, already been divided in the three parts, writes the publicist and former political analyst for the UN mission (UNAMI) in Baghdad, Wilfried Buchta in an article published by the Federal College for Security Studies (BAKS). The Shiite-dominated territories in the south of the county and the capital, the Sunni region particularly in the West, and the Kurdish North are irreconcilably confronting each other. At present, these three blocks, which have become extremely hostile, are barely held together through their common battle against IS/Daesh, their common enemy. It is doubtful whether Baghdad will be able to preserve the unity of this wrecked country, once victory over IS/Daesh is achieved. The intervention of foreign powers - besides NATO countries, particularly Iran and Turkey, which is playing a special role despite its NATO membership - render the situation even more complicated, Buchta explains.[1] "I expect that the civil war will continue for years," the Middle East expert warns.[2]

Casus Belli

At the beginning of this year, Buchta explicitly pointed to the role played by the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil, in northern Iraq. The new Iraqi constitution, adopted in October 2005, granted the KRG "vested rights of autonomy," according to the expert, "including the right to its own army, (the Peshmerga), its constitution, parliament and an exclusively Kurdish-language school and university system."[3] In the meantime, the KRG is openly and "ever more vehemently" pursuing "complete independence." In its first offensive against IS/Daesh in the summer 2014, the KRG succeeded in taking over "the region surrounding Kirkuk, rich in oil and gas," thereby expanding its territory by nearly 40 percent. Baghdad and Erbil have not yet agreed on the question of who controls Kirkuk," Buchta notes. "After Mosul is liberated, the issue of who will control Kirkuk and the region in and around Mosul, currently under Kurdish occupation, could sooner or later become the casus belli for direct military escalation between Baghdad and Erbil."

Ad Acta

The KRG and its ruling Barzani clan owe a large portion of its secessionist opportunity to Berlin. This had already been the case for the 2005 constitutional provisions, guaranteeing wide-ranging autonomy. During the elaboration of the constitution, in the summer of 2005, in a series of events and seminars, one of Germany's foreign policy front organizations, the FDP-affiliated Friedrich Naumann Foundation was able to convince influential Iraqi politicians and experts of the "functionality of federal institutions in practice." Even supporters of the central state - from the outset, fearful of Kurdish secession - acquiesced to granting comprehensive rights of autonomy.[4] Over the following years, Berlin had been systematically helping to reinforce Erbil, politically, as well as economically to advance the region's autonomy. This has already led to a serious dispute a few years ago, with the government in Baghdad. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[5]) Berlin's latest blow was the training and arming of the Peshmerga, the KRG's armed forces, within the framework of the war against IS/Daesh. Even before these measures were taken, observers had already been warning that Erbil - should its troops develop into a formidable combat force - would secede. "The exclusive arming of the Kurds" signifies "in fact, the recognition of the breakup" of Iraq, predicted, for example, the political scientist and publicist, Abdel Mottaleb El Husseini, "Iraq, as a nation" can then be put "ad acta."[6]

"What Happened to Yugoslavia"

The KRG leadership in Erbil has now, in fact, called for the secession of the country's Kurdish-speaking regions. As KRG President, Masoud Barzani, reiterated in a conversation with a leading German daily last Friday, he will organize a referendum. "To hold a referendum" is "a natural God-given right of the people of Kurdistan." "I do not believe that Baghdad will stand in the way of the natural right of our people," Barzani explained. "And if it does, that would not stop us either."[7] The KRG's President, who has enjoyed Berlin's consistent support, added: "we all know, what happened to Yugoslavia." It must be accepted "that official borders mean nothing today, they are passé." Barzani, however, pointed out that he does not intend to extend his secession demand to the Kurdish-speaking regions of Syria, or even to those of Turkey. He has been closely cooperating with Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan.[8] On the weekend, the KRG's Foreign Minister, Falah Mustafa reiterated his demand for secession, declaring that "the right to self-determination" must be "on the table." "We need to put an end to this unhealthy relationship [with Baghdad]."[9] National "independence" cannot be ruled out. As has been reported, on the sidelines at the Munich Security Conference, invited guest, KRG President Barzani held consultations on this question - including with the US Vice President Mike Pense. Returning some of the areas conquered by the Peshmerga to the government in Baghdad, in exchange for granting national independence, is under consideration, according to KRG Foreign Minister Mustafa.

Ethnic Cleansing

The conditions posed for secession, tend to confirm suspicions that, since the summer of 2014, some of the Peshmerga captured villages - captured in part thanks to German weaponry - had been measures of long-range planning. Human Rights organizations have repeatedly pointed to the fact that the Peshmerga have been deliberately demolishing the homes of Arabic-speaking residents, thereby depriving them of their means of livelihood. This has proven to be the case in 21 villages, including 17 in the area surrounding Kirkuk. There is clear evidence on hand - including satellite imagery - for another 62 localities. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[10]) Protests against the obviously deliberate expulsion of the Arabic-speaking portion of the population by the German government - whose support, the KRG is assured - are unknown. This was "wholesale ethnic cleansing" in favor of "the boundaries of a future Kurdish state" - in the wake of the war against IS/Daesh - US experts said already in the summer of 2015.[11]

[1] Wilfried Buchta: Verfrühte Abgesänge auf den IS. Die Mossul-Offensive und ihre möglichen Folgen. Bundesakademie für Sicherheitspolitik: Arbeitspapier Sicherheitspolitik Nr. 29/2016.
[2] Christian Böhme: "Am Ende könnte der IS profitieren". www.tagesspiegel.de 23.02.2017.
[3] Wilfried Buchta: Die irakische Mossul-Offensive. In: Politische Studien 471, Januar/Februar 2017. S. 37-47.
[4] See Reformkurs.
[5] See In the Wake of the War.
[6] "Die Kurden könnten Deutschland noch richtig ärgern". www.focus.de 23.08.2014. See From Kurdistan to Alawitestan.
[7] "Die Tage des Iraks als Zentralstaat sind gezählt". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 24.02.2017.
[8] See A Desperate Defensive Battle.
[9] Mark Townsend: Kurds offer land for independence in struggle to reshape Iraq. www.theguardian.com 25.02.2017.
[10] See Die Schlacht um Mossul (II) and In the Wake of the War.
[11] Sara Elizabeth Williams: Destroying Homes for Kurdistan. foreignpolicy.com 23.07.2015.