DENİZ ZEYREK >Is the ‘Kurdistan Referendum’ a NATO project?
These days there is a single item on the agenda of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq: The Sept. 25 independence referendum. KRG President Masoud Barzani has started a public relations campaign. On the one hand, he is making visits, and on the other, he is frequently giving interviews, cultivating the “no retreat from the referendum” perception.
The Turkish translation of his interview on Al-Ahram newspaper was published on news portal Rudaw, known for its affinity to Barzani. When asked about what his message to Ankara was, Barzani said, “Kurdistan is a secure and a prosperous place.”
Asked about Turkey’s attitude toward the referendum, Barzani said remarks in the media were contradictory. “But generally they are not against the Kurdish people’s rights,” he added.
Barzani was also asked about his relationship with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and what he requested from him on his last visit to Turkey, to which he said, “Our Turkish friends, looking from their perspective know very well that the Kurdistan region is very important… [Erdoğan] does not want anything else but to strengthen and develop our relations.”
Barzani tried to reassure Turkey in an interview with London-based Al Hayat newspaper, saying, “Our referendum does not mean a war against any of our neighbors. We want good relationships with them and especially with Turkey.”
When you read Barzani’s comments, you get a feeling that he has trust in something. What he trusts appears between the lines in his conversations.
For example, he said the U.S. and Russia will not ignore the Kurdish people who “paid big prices in protecting themselves in the last 100 years and inflicted a big defeat against terrorism.”
Barzani also frequently uses former American diplomat and advisors’ statements that say, “The U.N. agreement entitles this right to the Kurds” and mentions their expectations from U.N. members, including Turkey, that they will show respect to the Kurdish people’s given rights.
At the same time, developments are happening in the area and especially in Syria that lends credence to Barzani’s “freedom idea is supported by the U.S., Russia and the Western” claim.
For example, Col. Ryan Dillon, the spokesman of the anti-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) coalition under the guidance of the U.S., said they trained 17,000 Peshmergas. At a military ceremony at the “14th Peshmerga Infantry Command,” a German commander said they work with the Peshmerga forces on a brigade level and give them training at a NATO level. One Peshmerga commander gives details about the training they give, which are war tactics of NATO and to identify the enemy targets (along with the NATO coordinates) on the map and intervention techniques in a short span of time.
If Barzani goes ahead with the referendum, which holds the key to his political future, and if the answer is “Yes,” this will not necessarily mean that a “Kurdistan state” will be founded.
But it will be too late and in Syria, where the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) controls the People’s Protection Units’ (YPG) armed components, a similar discussion will start.
While an Iranian diplomat said, “We and Turkey must not give permission to this, it will give the biggest damage to both of us,” and as an American diplomat said, “Turkey must make a decision and stop criticizing us. If they do not take a stand against the deeds of the ‘Good Kurd’ Barzani, the group in Syria which they say is terrorist, will be encouraged to take similar step.”
After hearing this striking comment, I looked at the statements made in Turkey about the “Kurdistan referendum.” I could not find a sufficient reaction apart from Erdoğan’s “I do not find it right” statement, besides the usual “reason for war” and “red lines” phrases we keep hearing.
This subject influences not only Iraq but also Turkey directly, as well as Iran and Syria. Therefore, Turkey must develop a reasonable attitude toward the Kurdish problem together with its government and opposition, and more precisely with a “common sense” and put it into practice as soon as possible.