TEHRAN, Sep. 19 (Press Shia Agency) – Reacting to the US proposal to Erbil on Kirkuk, Osman Faruk Loğoğlu says the US is not in a position to apportion Iraqi territory to suit its own interests.
Despite growing opposition from Baghdad and neighboring countries and pressure on KRG head Masoud Barzani to withdraw from the independence plan, Iraqi Kurdistan region is still insisting on going ahead with the referendum on September 25, which may have many destabilizing consequences for the region.
To shed more light on the issues, payman yazdani from Mehr News agency discussed the issue with senior member of Turkey’s Republican People’s Party (CHP), Dr. Osman Faruk logoglu.
Following is the full text of his interview:
Iraqi Kurdistan region’s referendum on independence is slated for September 25 despite opposition from some Kurdish parties such as the Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG) or Gorran Movement. From the viewpoint of Kurdish parties, what will be the effects of the holding of the independence referendum on the said parties?
If held, the referendum will establish a new reality in the region. The Iraqi Kurdish groups, pro- and con-referendum, will all reassess their positions. A different debate on the “next step” in the light of a probable “yes” vote will commence among them. While their differences over their own future and the future of Iraq will continue and likely to be sharpened, the referendum might also generate an over-arching sense of unity and solidarity among the Kurds.
Regionally, the greatest impact will be on the Syrian Kurds who are also seeking self-rule in that country. They will be emboldened in their demands and expectations in the negotiations about the future design of Syria. As for the Kurds in other regional countries, the referendum would be a new variable in their discourse and in the broader discussion about the Kurdish issue in their countries.
Given the strict opposition of Baghdad, and particularly Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who has called the Kurdish independence plan “playing with fire”, is there any possibility of Baghdad’s military confrontation with Erbil following the holding of the referendum?
No, I do not think a military confrontation between Baghdad and Erbil is in the works or imminent at this time. The Prime Minister was referring to military action by the Iraqi army in case violence ensued during or after the referendum. Of course, it would be a difficult situation to control if there is violence and if the Iraqi army does take action in response. Barzani himself threatened military action against detractors. So it is a delicate and precarious situation for sure. This is why Barzani will probably do everything to make sure that the referendum is conducted quietly and that 26 September is also a peaceful day.
The US and the UK have opposed the referendum. Are they fundamentally against the separation of the Kurdistan region or just don’t think the timing is right? What is the actual reason of their opposition?
The objection of the US and the UK to the referendum is without bite, toothless. Neither has any problem with Iraqi Kurdish independence.They feel obliged to appear to be opposing the referendum because they are not prepared to apply sanctions against Erbil. Have you heard of any sanctions talk from the US and the UK?
What will be the possible reaction of Turkey to the referendum? Is Ankara’s military confrontation with Erbil conceivable?
Turkish President has in his most recent statement implied that strident measures are in the making if Barzani proceeds with the referendum. These measures will be decided for action by the Government in the upcoming meeting of the National Security Council on 22 September, rescheduled from its original date of 27 September. In the meantime, Prime Minister Yıldırım has stated that the referendum issue is a “matter of national security for Turkey”, implying perhaps that all options are on the table for Turkey. On the other hand, the Turkish Foreign Ministry has declared that the legitimate demands of Erbil arising from Constitutional disputes must be taken up with Baghdad through dialogue and negotiations.
Reportedly, the US has proposed an alternative plan to Barzani, based on Kirkuk will be handed to KRG and in return the referendum will be delayed. How do you evaluate this proposal?
This is absurd. The US is not in a position to apportion Iraqi territory to suit its own interests. Kirkuk has a particularly special status in the Iraqi context. It belongs to all the people of Iraq. It is not part of the territory of KRG. Including Kirkuk, Diala and Selahaddin are in the map of the referendum, alone makes the referendum illegal and unconstitutional vis-à-vis the Iraqi Constitution.
Considering the fact that conflicting regions like Kirkuk will take part in the referendum, how will non-Kurdish movements and residents like Turkmens react to this referendum, will they accept its results?
The referendum is mostly opposed by the Turkmens and the Arabs along with some Kurdish groups. The potential for violence lies precisely in this fact. How will the Kurds act and what will they do after the referendum? How will the Turkmens and the Arabs in the regions react? The Kurds, the Arabs and the Turkmens are also divided along sectarian lines, making the situation all the more complicated. Whatever the outcome of the referendum, Iraq’s troubles are going to be compounded in ways hard to predict, because there are many unknown variables at work here. The best hope is for no violence to flare up during or after the referendum and that Barzani and all others act sensibly and responsibly for the sake of their well-being, of Iraq and for the region as a whole.
Ambassador Loğoğlu retired in 2006 after 35 years in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Appointed as Turkey’s Ambassador to Denmark and later to Azerbaijan, Loğoğlu became Deputy Undersecretary for multilateral political affairs in 1998. He then served as Undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry until his posting as Ambassador of Turkey to Washington (2001-2006). He attended Brandeis University, did his doctorate at Princeton University and was a lecturer in Political Science at Middlebury College, 1969-1970. He is the author of İsmet İnönü and the Making of Modern Turkey and of numerous articles on foreign affairs. Loğoğlu served as President of the think-tank the Eurasian Strategic Studies Center. He was the Deputy Chairman of the Turkish National Commission for UNESCO (2006-2010). Elected to the parliament from Adana in June 2011, he served as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. He was the Vice-Chairman of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) in charge of foreign relations (2011-2014).
Interview by Payman Yazdani