Referendum is an attempt to avert attention from economic crisis: researcher tells Kurdpress
Michael Rubin believes the planned referendum of Kurdistan Region, set to be held on Monday September 25, is to avert attentions from the economic crisis of the Kurdistan Region, denying any nationalistic inclinations behind the attempt.

A researcher at the center of American Enterprise and an expert in Kurdistan Region politics, he told Kurdpress in an interview that the leadership of the region is grappling with a severe economic crisis and the referendum is to avert attentions from the situation.

According to him the issue of the disputed regions, which both Erbil and Baghdad claim jurisdiction over, is very decisive and Baghdad does not go against the referendum if it is not to be held in the disputed regions.

What follows is his interview with Kurdpress:

1- Despite so many internal and external oppositions against referendum, why Barzani insists on doing referendum? Is there anything behind that Barzani knows and we do not know?

Barzani is motivated by a desire for power and money, not by nationalism. Remember, in 1996, he allowed Saddam Hussein’s hated Republican Guards into Erbil rather than take the chance on rival Jalal Talabani gaining power. That was only eight years after the Anfal and, for that matter, the massacre of thousands of members of his tribe! That just shows that he cares little for ordinary Kurds and even his fellows Barzanis.

The reason why Barzani called the referendum now was to distract from the horrendous condition of the economy. After effectively running the region for a quarter century, he cannot escape for the economic downturn. After all, even if Barzani wants to blame Baghdad for the shortfall of cash, Barzani has been less than transparent about what he has done with the money from Kurdistan’s exports, nor can he explain why so many Kurds must suffer while his children spend profligately.

2- Why nearly all the neighbors and great powers are against referendum?

There’s various reasons. Baghdad is opposed largely because the referendum includes the disputed territories. I suspect that Iraqi authorities would be willing to accept the three, undisputed northern provinces breaking away.

With regard to Iran and Turkey, they fear the precedent because they know their own Kurdish population would like a similar referendum.

As for other states, they know that Barzani is staging the referendum for personal rather than nationalist reasons, and they fear that by doing so, he is leading Iraqi Kurds down a disastrous path. Had Barzani began simply with a referendum in Duhok, Erbil, and Sulaymani, the United States likely would have supported it.

3- Do you think that at the end, Barzani will conduct the referendum? And will Kurds agree with that referendum?

If he was going to delay the referendum, his best opportunity would be to allow parliament to call for the delay so that he could save face. Now, it’s too late.

4- Do you believe that at the end, the great powers especially U.S accept the result of the referendum?

Well, there are no credible observers, just people paid for by the KRG (I’ve seen the emails asking people to come observe and offering to pay their expenses). But, what I expect will happen is that the United States and other countries will tell Barzani to negotiate with Baghdad.

5- Will Baghdad accept the result of the referendum and say an ok to Kurd’s divorce? Will be there a war between Erbil and Baghdad?

There could be over places like Kirkuk. I also expect that the Yezidis in Sinjar and the Christians in the Ninewa plains will demand their own referendum now to break away from Kurdistan.

6- And how about Kirkuk? Do you think that Kurds can attach this city to independent Kurdish state?

Perhaps but Barzani made a mistake back in 2003: Rather than demand simply that Kirkuk would be a Kurdistani city, he should have shown the Arabs and other living there that they would have a better life under his rule than under Baghdad’s. He was short-sighted and tribal, though. I suspect there will be new serious consideration to proposals to make Kirkuk its own region.

Reporter's code: 50101

News Code: 17075  |  Date: 2017/09/24  |  Time: 8 : 51

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