News / Middle East

Iraq's Kurds Push for Independence Vote

FILE - Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani speaks during an interview  in Arbil, in Iraq's Kurdistan region, May 12, 2014.
FILE - Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani speaks during an interview in Arbil, in Iraq's Kurdistan region, May 12, 2014.
VOA News

The president of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region has asked his parliament to prepare for a referendum on independence, a measure that drew the United States' swift objection.

Massoud Barzani told the region's legislature in a speech Thursday that it is "time to decide about our self-determination and not to wait for other people to decide for us."

And in an interview with VOA, he called self-rule "a natural right that must be achieved. Independence must be achieved. I believe now the conditions are also favorable for independence.”

Barzani asked the lawmakers to form a committee to organize the referendum and pick an election date.

The Obama administration reacted quickly, saying Iraq must remain unified as it battles the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The Sunni-led militant group has taken over large swaths of western and central Iraq in its quest to establish an Islamic state.

“The best way for Iraq to confront the threat that’s posed by ISIL is to unify the country in the face of that existential threat,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Barzani's request to the Kurdish legislature comes days after Iraq's new parliament ended its first session since April's election without selecting a new leader. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is in the process of forming a new government, so far has ignored growing demands for him to step down.

The Obama administration is urging Maliki to use the opportunity to create a more inclusive leadership that would be better able to confront the militant threat.

But White House officials on Thursday warned Maliki that time is running out.

The insurgency has inflamed sectarian divisions among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. Iraq’s five million Kurds have taken advantage of the upheaval  and “expanded their territory by as much as 40 percent in recent weeks,” Reuters reported.

VOA's Mary Alice Salinas contributed to this report. Some information for this report provided by Reuters.

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Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous
July 04, 2014 11:04 PM
what world needs to do is federalize Iraq in three autonomous republics with giving some power to does three republics powers (Kurdish,Sunni Shia) and have a strong national goverment and state with police and military on national level with eaqual representation to all .....also have a federal district in city of Bagdad that will belong and belongs to the whole country and also have all national resources to belong to all , like oil, and have the areas with mixed populations go under national federal district and have to chambers of government that are equal represented and presented by all, ...that is the only way forward and not like it is know with present situation and present government....also international community should implement this in Ukraine, Central African Republic,Serbia,Israel,Bosnia, Syria , and other countries that have same issues as we have now around the world ....this can only be achieved with all countries working together and have peace for all .....have a local governments autonomy with strong national government that have strong ministries and police and army on national level

by: arlo_sleepyhead from: SW Florida
July 04, 2014 2:12 PM
I applaud the Kurdish decision. No one will give them sovereignty, they must stand up and fight for it or stop complaining when other nations make decisions for them. As far as Iraq having some right to eternal existence - no, if they won't fight for it, they don't deserve it. Maliki only wants to fight for Baghdad and the Shiites, they don't really want the rest of the country.

by: Lawrence Bush from: Kennebonkport
July 04, 2014 1:29 PM
What ever be the current exentential commination and bedlam in Iraq, along with our government, the UN as well as the international community must endeavor to see an unified Iraq. We Amercans and our friendly states under NATO as well as the Middle East states do have contributions for the newly installed democracy after ousting the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussain. During our Iraq mission, it was our intention to give a really strong foundation to the Iraqi democracy, keeping the unity, integrity and the rex status of Iraq.
The very national integration and the reconciliation efforts our government had resorted that remained unfinished. It is the very out ome of the current chaos in Iraq. In this regard, the Noori al Maliki government has been a failure. Where we had left in the national reconciliation process, if that could have been sustained, the division of Iraq into three states - ISIL, the new call of a referendum by the Kurdish govt. president and the Sihite Iraq would not have taken place today. For an integrated national inclusive government consisting of the Shias, the Sunnis and the Kurds is necessary today. And, for the natioal interest of Iraq, premier Maliki should step down now thereby paving the the path for an inclusive govt. After that does take place, the new govt. should have touch with our govt., what ever necessary for the integrity and national sovereignty of Iraq, our govt. would look forward with urgency. In the sake of Iraq irrespective of the existing communities.......... no division of the sovereignty should be allowed.

by: Not Again from: Canada
July 04, 2014 9:51 AM
Unfortunately on this one I fully disagree with the Obama administration. History and current reality shows, that, in almost every country, whose borders were created by the dastardly empires, there are significant deadly ethnic/religeous, never ending, conflicts. Nations that were created with artificial borders (= tribes were divided so that the dastardly empires could control/exploit them), have been nothing but trouble, wars, carnage, human rights violations, lack of development, lack of democracy, etc. Millions have died, around the World, because of these artificial border states.

The best example of this situation was the Balkans, never ending conflicts, because of the outright ineptness, of external powers to ensure that those can't live in peace are not separated . Other examples are Somalia, CAR, Syria, Sudan, etc. The inherent assumption that people should be forced to live with their enemies, and that their enemies can run their lives, can fail to share power, can fail to provide safety and security.. is outright wrong. Such a bad situation it is absolutely a form of serfdom, at best, and at worst is condemning people to never ending slavery.

Maliki deliberately marginalized Sunni and Kurdish people, essentially he became the Shia version of Saddam Hussein. By marginalizing/ persecuting/ failing to share power, the Sunni and the Kurdish people no longer supported Iraq, to the point of creating a terrible backlash, allowing ISIL/ISIS to rapidly gain support and regional power; this is one of the worst terror orgs so far observed. Maliki was the creation and darling of the Bush administration; it was the past US administration that brought about the terrible situation we see in Iraq today, the Bush administration was fooled by Maliki.

Iraq is a country in which the Kurdish people were always marginalized, abused, terrorized, gassed by advanced chemical weapons; and attempts were even made to destroy their culture, an ancestral culture. Worse, it was past US administrations that armed Saddam Hussein, who turned against the US, sounds familiar- much like Maliki..? It was Maliki that refused to accept a residual US forces/administrative experts, for the obvious reasons, he had no intention of having an inclusive democratic gvmt for which the US made huge sacrifices.

The Kurdish people were given assurances, during WWI that if they fought against the central powers, Germany, Austro-Hungary, Ottomans.. they would be given independence after the war, this commitment was not implemented by the victorious allies, notwithstanding the massive sacrifices the Kurdish people made during WWI. Let us hope that the Kurdish people will not be thrown under the bus, once again. The Kurds are the only ones, in Iraq, that have a nascent sustainable democracy.

by: Jack from: Oregon
July 03, 2014 9:46 PM
The US should stay out of it. Kurds have been fight the Iraqis and the Turks for their own homeland. The borders were drawn by the major powers on the basis of oil. That is one reason why Iraq is being torn apart along ethnic and religious lines.
In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
July 04, 2014 10:18 AM
Hey Jack, -- If only the US and Europeans colonialists hadn't interfered in other countries politics, forcing "Gunboat Treaties" and those "Unequal Treaties" and forced borders on their countries... (and forming little small monarchy governments, that paid them huge bribes)..... (and now), the old colonialist countries interfered again, bringing this violence, killings, destruction and wars going on today.... this is the arrogant legacy from the old colonial countries, (their past, present, and future interference), thinking they know what's best for 3erd world countries, isn't it?

by: Climp Jones
July 03, 2014 9:40 PM
what a joke. Condemnations by the Obama Administration are the equivalent of Bhutan, Liechtenstein, Paraguay, etc., 'voicing' the same
In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
July 04, 2014 9:07 AM
Hey Climp, -- the Kurdish autonomous region was established under Bush in 2003, to give the Kurds representation in the Iraq government, and if they declare independence, there'd be in a war, with both the Iraqi Sunnis and Shias, for where the Kurds borders, and oil fields would be?..... and Turks and Syrians too?..... The US worries, because they provided security to the Kurds, and promised they'd protect the Kurdish autonomous region...... REMEMBER how bad the US did when fighting in Iraq, and do you think the US wants to fight that Iraq war again?........ REALLY?
In Response

by: 1worldnow from: Earth
July 04, 2014 12:02 AM
Condemnations for whatever reason, is nothing less than a joke!!!!! I bet the Kurds are flooding their 'Walmarts' to buy up all the canned goods and water to prepare for the destructive power of Obama's condemnation!!! But you did give credit to the Obama administration giving the equivalency of Liechtenstein, Bhutan, etc, they would be insulted! hehe

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