Former US Diplomat Peter Galbraith says
time is ripe for Kurdish Independence
April 30, 2012
In this interview with Rudaw, former U.S
diplomat and advisor to the Kurdistan Regional
Government KRG Peter Galbraith says the time is ripe
for Kurdish independence thanks to the thriving oil
industry, international investment and the fact that
Kurds are America’s only reliable ally in the
volatile region. Galbraith says Iraqi Prime Minister
Nuri al-Maliki is not following the constitution or
respecting the rights of Kurdistan.
Q: Do you think
the constitution can prevent the resurgence of a
dictatorship in Iraq?
The constitution establishes a weak central
government, enshrines power-sharing among Iraq’s
different peoples (Shi'a, Sunnis and Kurds) at the
center and gives the Kurdistan Region de facto
independence. As such, the constitution is designed
to prevent the reestablishment of a powerful
centralized state that has led to dictatorship in
the past. But no constitution can prevent
dictatorship. That is up to the people.
Q: Do you think
constitutions matter in the Middle East region? In
these countries, the ruler often has all the
they matter. But, it is up to the people and their
leaders to enforce the constitution.
Q: Right now,
Iraq is in political turmoil and most parties accuse
PM Nuri al-Maliki of violating the constitution. Do
you think he has violated the constitution?
Clearly, he is not following the constitution. He is
not respecting Kurdistan’s rights, including those
over natural resources, and he has not held the
constitutionally required referendum on Kirkuk and
other disputed areas.
leaders blame Maliki for not sharing power and
consolidating all of it in his own hands. Do you
think those accusations are correct?
They are correct.
Q: Barzani says
that Maliki is only killing time and doesn’t want to
solve important issues such as Article 140 regarding
the disputed territories and the oil and gas issue.
He also says that if the situation continues like
this, he will let the people of Kurdistan decide
their own future through a referendum. Does the
Iraqi constitution give the Kurds the right to
separate from Iraq?
Kurds agreed to stay in Iraq on the basis of the
constitution in its entirety. If the Baghdad
government does not keep its part of the bargain,
then the basis for Kurdistan’s continued membership
in Iraq no longer exists.
Q: When the
constitution was written, did you feel it would
solve issues such as Article 140 and the Peshmerga?
knew these issues would be difficult because the
mindset of those who wanted a centralized Iraq did
not change. But, I hoped the constitution would be
Q: When the
Balkan countries gained independence, you were the
U.S. ambassador in that region. Based on your
experience, do you think now is the right time for
Kurdistan to become independent from Iraq?
The Kurds tried being part of Iraq for 90 years and
Iraq has failed them. I learned in the Balkans that
there is something worse than the breakup of a
country, and that is trying to keep people in a
country against their will.
Q: In your
opinion, what are the obstacles to a Kurdish state
in Iraqi Kurdistan?
President Massoud Barzani and Prime Minister
Nechirvan Barzani have eliminated the most important
obstacles to full independence. They have developed
a close political and economic relationship with
they have created an oil industry in Kurdistan which
provides the financial basis for independence and
they have encouraged other international investments
in Kurdistan. They have shown that Kurdistan is
America’s only reliable and democratic ally in Iraq
and in a volatile region.
Q: Do you think
that, in the future, the U.S. will support an
U.S. usually supports the status quo and probably
will not support secession until after it takes
place. The U.S. has no friend as good as the Kurds
so it will have no alternative but to accept
Kurdistan’s independence once it takes place.
leaders were happy when U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil
came to Kurdistan. What is your view on that issue?
is no greater vote of confidence in Kurdistan’s oil
industry than to have the world’s largest oil
company invest there.
Q: What do you
think of Kurdistan’s oil policy?
makes the centuries-old dream of self-government a
reality and provides great benefits to the people of
the Kurds admire your support for them, but three
years ago you were linked to Kurdish oil contracts
which some Western media called scandalous. Can you
elaborate on that?
Before 2004, Kurdistan was entirely dependent on
Baghdad and foreign aid. I helped bring the first
oil company to Kurdistan and, as a result, Kurdistan
now has a thriving oil industry. For the first time,
the people of Kurdistan benefit from their own
resources and the Kurdistan government has the
resources to run its own affairs. Some Western media
criticized my work because they are deeply attached
to the bankrupt idea of a centralized Iraq where
everything is controlled by Baghdad. I am proud of
my contribution to a self-governing and prosperous
By Hawar Abdulrazzaq
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