By Faraidoon Namdar and Farhang Faraidoon Namdar
The neighboring Kurdish states (Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria) have never been more troubled than now and if the Kurdish referendum is postponed for sure, we have lost the opportunity. The international system is very bewildering, having no central power to organize the system and the situation is every man for himself. There is no guarantee in the system and only interest rules (rarely other factors) the international system. Some bordering and international states are urging the KRG to postpone the referendum, if delayed they would support them in the latter attempts. However, this is a fantasy, after the cold war they handed all there nuclear socks to the Russians for territorial integrity and perpetual sovereignty, tut the Russian annexed Ukraine’s Crimea, similar situations have happened throughout history. Reciprocal interest forms alliance between former enemies and vice versa as in the case of the Soviet Union and the US during and after the Second World War or the Us and the European Union during and after the cold war. Given these the Kurds must peruse there long awaited dream. The some neighboring and world states know that they cannot stop the Kurds from holding the referendum, as explained below, so they are demanding the referendum postponed.
Iran’s military chief in rare visit to Turkey was an omen of significant changes in the region, allegedly Baqir and Akar have disused the Syrian crisis, however since Baqiri meeting his counterpart it’s obvious that they have negotiated military tactics, which might include controlling Kirkuk which is the only card that can stop the Kurds from proceeding the referendum. However this will be a pernicious mistake, because if any Iranian and Turkish forces are intended to enter Kirkuk it will most probably lead to a regional war including Saudi Arabia and Israel. The growing Turkish and Iranian hegemony in the region is due to American Hegemony being in decline in the Middle Eastern after US troop withdrawal from Iraq. An independent Kurdish state would halt Iranian and Turkish interests in the region.
The Turkish and Russian relations have always been shaky and full of rifts, from the Russo-Turkish downing of the Russian jet. Moreover, the Turks are importing most of their energy from abroad, especially Russia which have led to Turkish dependence on Russia, day by day Turkish demand for energy increases especially natural gas because Turkey produces electricity and some other energies from natural gas. The Turks are trying to transfer their dependence from Russia to elsewhere, just like Germany where they import 40 percent of their natural gas from Russia and any attempt from Russia to stop sending energy would stifle Germany’s economy. Currently the Turks are importing most of their oil and natural gas from Kurdistan and Azerbaijan respectively. It is estimated that Kurdistan holds 4 percent of world’s natural gas reserves, Kurdistan is both close from Turkey and need Turkish land to send its oil and natural gas the world markets. Turkey plans to start importing Kurdish natural gas in 2019 and its contract with Russia will end in 2020.additonally The Kurdistan Region is currently exporting around 650,000 barrels of oil per day and is expected to increase its exports, mainly to the Turkish Ceyhan port by pipeline. Turkey needs Kurdistan and any attempt to damage the Kurds will have a worse effect on Turkey. In addition, Europeans are trying to transfer their oil and gas independence from Russia to elsewhere and this can be achieved by an independent Kurdistan, Kurdistan can provide up to 30 percent of Europe’s natural gas demands.
Iran and turkey hold significant number of Kurds within their borders, formation of a Kurdish state would incite nationalist movements in parts of Turkey and Iran which would threaten Iranian and Turkish national security. If the Turks or the Iranians want to pit the Kurds with Arabs of Turkmens in Iraq it will result in a broader Kurdish alliance which the Iranian and the Turks are very frightened of. As it happened in the case of Kobani where Peshmarga forces fought alongside the PYG fighters or PKK and PYG protection of Shingal and Kirkuk. Turkey strongly opposes any Kurdish state in its southern borders and the fear of a unification between South and West Kurdistan. Turkey has many economic problems, had not helped Turkey, Turkey would have fallen into a recession. In terms of military the Turkish army have been weakened by expelling many experienced and talented military personnel which have enervated the Turkish army. Modern warfare is very expensive and if Turkey tries to enter a war it would decimate its economy because fighting would not only occur in Kurdistan because many Kurds are living in Turkey and the fighting will also flood the Turkish cities as well. Turkey has lost most of its allies in the region including Europe, Turkey tries to sway in the Sunni- Shiite rivalry led by Saudi Arabia and Iran respectively, a reason behind Qatar crisis was to from a bipolar system in the region and to conclude position of Turkey and Qatar in the rivalry. An independent Kurdistan will serve as a buffer zone between the Shiites and Turkey, since Turkey holds more than some 20 million Alewives.
Iran’s lofty sanctions have slowed its economic growth and unemployment rates are rising which is currently about 30 percent. Iran needs Kurdish Markets, Iran has a protectionist economy and they heavily tariff any goods entering their country as a result the Kurdish markets have served as Iranian economic engine in the last years and if Iran is to close its boarders it will to more harm to itself rather than Kurdistan because Kurdistan is the only friendly region bordered with Iran and no Iranian soldier have been Killed since Kurdish governance in the region.The Saudis are happy with a new state emerging in the border of Iran that will halt Iranian expansion, Saudi Arabia’s economy is in trouble having a budget deficit of 79 billion dollar as of 2016 due to low oil prices and the Saudi power struggle inside the house of Saud as well. Saudi Arabia is almost engulfed by the Shiites, as a result an independent Kurdistan will ease their burden and impede Iranian movements in the Middle East.
Internationally the Middle East is known as a contentious region, but as we all witnessed Kurdistan was the safer compared to Europe where many explosions occurred whereas Kurdistan bordered ISIS about 1000 kilometers. The Kurds have proven that they are hardliners of worldliness and have fought terrorism more than any other nation on the planet.
The Syrian regime’s main priority is to survive and cannot have any negative effect on the Kurdish state, relations with Assad family and the Kurds have always been friendly and cooperative.
Currently Israel has lost all of its friends in the Middle East including Turkey as tension between the two countries soared and Israel withdrew its diplomats. Israel is almost engulfed by the Shiite militants and radical Muslims, the Kurds have been old friends of Israelis, as mentioned above an independent Kurdistan can halt Iranian and Shiite expansion which is in the interest of Israelis.
US has lost most of its allies in the Middle East and it needs a new ally in the region, Kurdistan can be the perfect ally, which can protect itself and together with US hinder Iran. Kurdistan would be a better alternative than Iranian dominated Iraq for US which is trying to rebuild. The Iraqi forces have been decimated in the fight against ISIS and only Hashd al Shaabi is standing which is directly controlled from Tehran thus Kurdistan can be the new Israel for the US.
Finally, it’s the time for the Kurds to declare their independence, because if the referendum is postponed there will be no other chances even in a distant future. Now all states surrounding Kurdistan are at their weakest stage and they are gradually recovering which will end any hope for Kurdish independence.
Faraydoon Namdar, is a PUK diplomat he is head of foreign relations between East Asia and PUK, head of Japanese Kurdish Solidarity. He is political analyst, he frequently writes about foreign relations and political analysis. Farhang Faraidoon Namdar, writer and political analyst in Kurdish and world politics.