08.09.2017 / 12:30 Uhr

Irakisch Kurdistan: Beim Referendum geht es nicht (nur) um Unabhängigkeit

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Ein Gastbeitrag von Mohammaed E. Salih in der New York Times:

Iraqi Kurdistan’s plans for a Sept. 25 referendum on independence have been met with frustration from many sides. Neither the United States nor the government in Baghdad, nor other regional capitals like Tehran or Ankara, are pleased with the prospect of a third of Iraq breaking away completely. Such a move, they fear, could further destabilize Iraq and the wider Middle East. The United States is now pushing the Kurdish government to postpone the referendum indefinitely.

Those fears are unfair. After all, the policies of the governments in Baghdad, Tehran, Damascus and Ankara have done more to wreak havoc in the Middle East than Kurdish voters possibly could. Moreover, the excessive focus on those risks misses the real reason the Kurds are planning the referendum in the first place.

Despite legitimate Kurdish aspirations for statehood, the Sept. 25 vote is not necessarily just a push to secure independence. Instead, its purpose is to fundamentally restructure the relationship between the Kurdistan regional government, or K.R.G., and the federal government in Baghdad. In their statements in recent years, senior Kurdish officials have repeatedly signaled — if often implicitly — their willingness to settle for something other than independence, namely a “confederation” between Kurdistan and Iraq.

Kurdish leaders hope that the referendum will draw the outside world’s attention to the Kurds’ cyclical and dysfunctional relationship with the Iraqi government. For decades, this relationship has been characterized by periods of calm, often when Baghdad is weak, followed by conflict when central authorities feel powerful enough to take on the Kurds militarily. Now, longstanding tensions over territory, oil and military affairs seem once again ready to explode into violence.

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