Kurdistan PM says Independent Kurds can
live within Iraq
By Ben Birnbaum - The Washington Times
November 9, 2011
Kurdistan region 'Iraq', —
Iraqi Kurds are committed to preserving their
country’s borders despite their longtime yearning
for an independent state, a leader of Iraq’s
autonomous Kurdish region told The Washington Times.
“You can never say never, and every Kurd deep down
yearns for independence,” said Barham Salih, prime
minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
“But I live in that neighborhood. The reality of
politics, the reality of the region has certain
obligations on one as you make your decsions.
“I genuinely believe that a democratic, federal Iraq
may well represent a very viable option for the
Kurds of Iraq,” he said. “So far, we have proven
that to be the case.”
Mr. Salih, who met Tuesday with Vice President
Joseph R. Biden, said the Kurds have shown they are
more concerned with Iraq’s stability and survival
“than many of their Arab compatriots who are
fighting it out over power in Baghdad.”
The Kurdish leader was referring to the political
struggle between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki,
a Shiite, and the Sunni-dominated bloc led by former
prime minister Ayad Allawi.
Iraq's Kurdistan region Prime Minister Barham Salih.
“Should Iraq be dismembered, I can say that it won’t
be the Kurds who will be the agents of division,”
Mr. Salih said, vowing that the Kurds would not seek
independence “so long as the constitution of Iraq is
Iraqi Kurds compose about one-fifth of the country’s
30.4 million people and are concentrated in its
three northernmost, oil-rich provinces. They have
enjoyed autonomy since the imposition of no-fly
zones after the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
After Saddam Hussein’s ouster, Kurdish politicians
became power brokers in the central government as
well, occupying the presidency and key ministries.
Questions about Iraq’s future as a democracy and a
single state have abounded since President Obama’s
announcement last month that the U.S. would withdraw
all its troops by the end of the year.
Mr. Salih and other Kurdish leaders had supported a
long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq, seeing it
as a check against the central government and
Kurdistan’s meddlesome neighbors.
“Undeniably, we are concerned - and we must be
concerned - about the new face [of Iraq] in the
aftermarth of American redeployment from Iraq,” he
noting that Iraqi Kurds had benefited from U.S.
military engagement during the past two decades.
But Mr. Salish said he hopes to find a “silver
lining” in the situation. “The Kurd in me obliges me
to be an optimist,” he said.
Mr. Salih said the U.S. has a “range of policy
tools” in the diplomatic, economic and cultural
spheres to broaden its engagement with Iraq and with
the KRG after the withdrawal of troops.
In July, the KRG achieved one of its longtime
objectives: the opening of a U.S. Consulate in the
region’s capital of Erbil. Mr. Salih said his
priority now is to promote U.S. investment in the
“America and the West in general have had a troubled
relationship with the Muslim world,” he said.
“Kurdistan stands out as a Muslim community that is
grateful to the United States, that appreciates what
the Americans have done to give us a chance at
building a functioning, free society, and this model
should continue, should be enhanced, should be
supported - not just for Kurdistan but for the rest
of Iraq and for the rest of the region.”
Copyright ©, respective
author or news agency,
does not take credit for and is not responsible for the
content of news information on this page