President of Iraqi Kurdistan Massoud Barazani: The Kurds Will Not Be a Party to Civil War in Iraq, But When We Declare Our Independence, "We Will Be Willing to Pay Any Price" Al-Arabiya TV (Dubai/Saudi Arabia) - October 28, 2011 - 02:14
October 28, 2011 - MEMRI Clip No. 3216
Following are excerpts from an interview with President of Iraqi Kurdistan Massoud Barazani, which aired on Al-Arabiya TV on October 28, 2011:
Interviewer: You warned that a civil war might break out in Iraq, with the withdrawal of the Americans, planned for the end of the year. Is this an analysis, or is it based on information?
Massoud Barazani: This is my analysis, because the conditions for this exist. The American withdrawal might, God forbid, make way for a civil war, which would be an all-out war, and would not – as in previous cases – break out and then stop.
Interviewer: Would the Kurds play a part in such a war?
Massoud Barazani: The Kurds would play a role in preventing civil war. They would not be a party to it.
Interviewer: What makes you think that you would not be dragged into a civil war, which would involve Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds?
Massoud Barazani: We've made it clear in the past that we are not, and will not be, party to the sectarian conflict.
Interviewer: Given these fears – which, as you mentioned, you share – was the US presence a restraining factor in this conflict?
Massoud Barazani: The US presence did not help to prevent these incidents or problems, but it helped to prevent their spreading into an all-out war.
When we declare our independence, we will bear all the consequences and all the responsibility. We will be willing to pay any price.
Interviewer: Even if it means fighting?
Massoud Barazani: Any price. If we decide to declare our independence we shall bear the responsibility.
“The Arab leaders have oppressed, and are still oppressing, their people under the pretext that (precedence must always be given to) Palestine and to the struggle against Zionism, colonialism, and imperialism, and that 'no voice should rise above the voice of battle.' In the name of this hypocritical (cause,) labeled 'national security' or 'supreme national interest,' rights have been usurped, while democracy, development, and rule of law have been deferred indefinitely.”
— Dr. Hussein Sinjari President of the NGO Tolerancy International
Manifestations of nationalist separatist sentiment have grown increasingly prevalent among Iraqi Kurds, who, since the first Gulf War, have enjoyed autonomy in the governorates of Sulaymaniyah, Irbil, and Dahuk in northern Iraq. Many regard this as reflecting a Kurdish aspiration to establish an independent state, first in Iraqi Kurdistan, and later in Greater Kurdistan, encompassing additional Kurdish-populated regions in Turkey and Iran. Separatist tendencies among Kurds therefore arouse considerable apprehension among Arabs - Sunni and Shi'ite - both in Iraq and in the neighboring countries.
Several Kurdish writers have warned of the dangers of unilaterally declaring an independent Kurdish state in Iraq. Prominent among them is Kurdish liberal Dr. Hussein Sinjari, president of the NGO Tolerancy International. Sinjari is also a former minister in the regional government of Kurdistan and owner of the liberal Baghdadi Arabic-language daily Al-Ahali.
On August 13, 2008, Dr. Sinjari published an article dealing with the various aspects and repercussions of Kurdish nationalism, and with the corruption in the Kurdish leadership. The article - which sparked a lively debate in Kurdistan - appeared on his recently established website (www.tolerancy.org ) and on several other Kurdish sites.
Articles about corruption in the Kurdish leadership were also penned by two other prominent Kurdish writers: Mahmoud 'Othman, an independent Iraqi MP, and Nusherwan Mustafa, who until a year ago was the No. 2 man in the Kurdistan Democratic Party.
Following are excerpts from the three articles.
Separatism - A Destructive Policy
Dr. Sinjari argued that the nationalism of the Kurdish leadership, and its implicit threats to secede from Iraq, were provocative and arrogant and could lead to disaster. He wrote:
" hundreds of Kurdish flags and signs exhorting Baghdad to recognize Kurdish rights. The question is why the organizers did not arrange for a few Iraqi flags to be flown as well. You demand that Baghdad your rights, but at the same time you provoke Baghdad and others. (I say,) enough with this arrogance. True, we have legitimate rights, but (how do you expect to achieve them) when we behave inappropriately?
"These implied threats to secede or to (declare) independence are destructive. Instead, we should first of all incorporate into the political reform of the (Kurdish) region an educational program (inculcating a sense of) Iraqi nationality and faith in the Iraqi homeland based on equality, recognition of rights and duties... tolerance towards all (ethnic) identities, and the restoration of patriotic Iraqi sentiment among the Iraqi Kurds..."
Reliance on Foreign Forces - A Grave Mistake
Sinjari went on to warn the Kurdish leaders against relying on foreign forces to help them attain their national aspirations, arguing that the best course of action for any leadership was to ensure the satisfaction and gain the support of its own people:
"...The (Kurdish) leaders rely too heavily on their American and British allies, and that is another great mistake. The best guarantee is the people's satisfaction with their leadership... (Moreover,) it is Baghdad, not Washington or London, that will determine the status of the (Kurdish) region, which is part of Iraq. The Kurds are suffering from the arrogance and boastfulness of their leaders..."
Nationalist Discourse Is Deceptive and Harmful
Sinjari also discussed the priorities set by the Kurdish leadership, warning against prioritizing the nationalist agenda over social and administrative issues. He argued that the focus on nationalist aspirations had made the Kurds indefinitely postpone developing their region, and urged them to learn from the bitter experience of the Arab countries, who had made the same mistake:
"The Kurdish argument that we still face national challenges pertaining to our very existence, and that reform should therefore be postponed until the 'main struggle' is won, is flawed. The pan-Arab movements demonstrate the deceptive and hypocritical (nature) of this (sort of) nationalist discourse.
"The Arab leaders have oppressed, and are still oppressing, their people under the pretext that (precedence must always be given to) Palestine and to the struggle against Zionism, colonialism, and imperialism, and that 'no voice should rise above the voice of battle.' In the name of this hypocritical (cause,) labeled 'national security' or 'supreme national interest,' rights have been usurped, while democracy, development, and rule of law have been deferred indefinitely.
"Why do we wish to repeat this wretched experience? Why do we want the situation in our country to resemble that of the Eastern European societies in the past? Why have we allowed ourselves to become so immersed in our own lies that we have begun to believe them, and our whole society is living a lie? We call for nationalism, but do the opposite; we call for responsibility, but our real (concern) is for our pockets and our privileges."
Kurdish Writers: Our Leadership Is Corrupt
Kurdish writer Mahmoud 'Othman likewise criticized the corruption in the Kurdish leadership. In a September 23, 2008 interview for the independent Kurdish paper Hawlati, he predicted that "many Kurds will refrain from voting (in the upcoming elections for the parliament) because they think it is useless. People would have preferred a parliament with an opposition to a parliament that is (jointly) controlled by (the two Kurdish parties, namely) the Kurdistan Democratic Party (headed by Mas'oud Barzani) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (headed by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani)... There are more freedoms in Baghdad than in the Kurdish region, and much greater freedom of the press..." <1>
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani Explains Why He Opposed the Execution of Saddam and States: Kurds Do Not Want Secession from Iraq November 14, 2007 MEMRI Clip No. 1662
Following is an interview with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, which aired on Channel 1, Egyptian TV on November 14, 2007:
Jalal Talabani: A Kurdish secession from Iraq is impossible. Why? Let's assume that the Kurds declare independence, and that the Iraqi government does not wage war against them, but that it seals the border. Let's also assume that Turkey, Syria, and Iran do not declare war either – although they would indeed declare war in such a case – but they also seal their borders. How would this government survive? How would it import or export goods? How would it maintain contact with the world? It would be unable to do so. Therefore, such a secession is impossible. Moreover, the Kurdish people has begun to realize – as was evident in its vote in favor of Iraqi unity – that its real interest of prosperity and development lie within a democratic, federal, united, and independent Iraq.
Let's take the Sunni Arabs in Iraq, for example. They do not want Iraq to be partitioned. They might be dreaming of regaining the rule in Iraq, but not of its partitioning. The same goes for the Shiites in Iraq. They consider themselves to be the majority in Iraq, and they wish to be the rulers of Iraq, not to divide it up and rule only part of it. They believe that their true interests – just like the Kurds – lie within a democratic, federal, and united Iraq.
Interviewer: You opposed the execution of President Saddam Hussein.
Jalal Talabani: I was against the way it was done. In my opinion, Saddam Hussein should have been tried for two important issues – First, the wholesale execution of Ba'thists. Saddam Hussein, during a certain meeting, gave the order to execute dozens of members of the Ba'th leadership, and it was carried out at that very same meeting, without a trial and without a verdict. The charges were most peculiar – their desire to unify Syria and Iraq. Arab unity was considered a crime, despite the Ba'thist motto: "Unity, liberty, socialism." Saddam "implemented" this motto by killing those who called for unity. This case should have been presented to the Arab and Iraqi public, so that they would know Saddam's deeds, and not just that he murdered a group of people from a certain region with a certain sectarian affiliation. Then there is the issue of the Al-Anfal campaign, in which some 200,000 Kurds were buried alive. You must have heard that we have mass graves in Iraq, in which hundreds of thousands of civilians were buried alive without a trial. He should have been placed on trial for that, as well as for the wholesale execution of the Ba'thists, so that the public would know what he did. I did not agree with the haste to execute him – and bear in mind that in principle, I do not support executions.
Interviewer: You opposed the recent death sentence handed down to the two condemned men in the case of Al-Anfal, including Chemical Ali, as he is notoriously known, who was responsible for the murder of thousands of Kurds.
Jalal Talabani: He is also responsible for cursing me. If you go over the old recordings, you will see that he used to curse me in the most disgusting way. It is a matter of principle, my brother. As I said, since I once signed a declaration against executions and since I am a member of the Socialist International, I am opposed to executions. Besides, Iraq has witnessed enough executions. Yes, I think that a lot of blood has been spilled on Iraqi soil, and that one killing leads to another, and that we must take into consideration the feelings of our Sunni Arab brothers on this matter. Take the issue of the officers, for instance – I am against the execution of officers of the former Iraqi army. They were carrying out orders – otherwise, they would have been killed. An Iraqi army officer who refused to carry out an order would not have been placed on trial, but shot in the head.
\ã-'sir-é-ä\ n (1998)
1: an ancient empire of Ashur
2: a democratic state in Bet-Nahren, Assyria (northern
Iraq, northwestern Iran, southeastern Turkey and eastern Syria.)
a democratic state that fosters the social and political rights to all of
its inhabitants irrespective of their religion, race, or gender
4: a democratic state that believes in the freedom of
religion, conscience, language, education and culture in faithfulness to the
principles of the United Nations Charter —
Ethnicity, Religion, Language
Israeli, Jewish, Hebrew
Assyrian, Christian, Aramaic
Saudi Arabian, Muslim, Arabic
\ã-'sir-é-an\ adj or n (1998)
1: descendants of the ancient empire of Ashur
2: the Assyrians, although representing but one single
nation as the direct heirs of the ancient Assyrian Empire, are now
doctrinally divided, inter sese, into five principle
ecclesiastically designated religious sects with their corresponding
hierarchies and distinct church governments, namely, Church of the
East, Chaldean, Maronite, Syriac Orthodox and Syriac Catholic.
These formal divisions had their origin in the 5th century of the
Christian Era. No one can coherently understand the Assyrians
as a whole until he can distinguish that which is religion or church
from that which is nation -- a matter which is particularly
difficult for the people from the western world to understand; for
in the East, by force of circumstances beyond their control,
religion has been made, from time immemorial, virtually into a
criterion of nationality.
the Assyrians have been referred to as Aramaean, Aramaye, Ashuraya,
Ashureen, Ashuri, Ashuroyo, Assyrio-Chaldean, Aturaya, Chaldean,
Chaldo, ChaldoAssyrian, ChaldoAssyrio, Jacobite, Kaldany, Kaldu,
Kasdu, Malabar, Maronite, Maronaya, Nestorian, Nestornaye, Oromoye,
Suraya, Syriac, Syrian, Syriani, Suryoye, Suryoyo and Telkeffee. —
1: a Semitic language which became the lingua franca of
the Middle East during the ancient Assyrian empire.
2: has been referred to as Neo-Aramaic, Neo-Syriac, Classical
Syriac, Syriac, Suryoyo, Swadaya and Turoyo.