ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Kurdistan National Congress (KNC), an umbrella group of Kurdish movements from across the Middle East, has condemned Iranian attempts to hinder the Kurdistan Region’s moves towards independence.
In a statement, the KNC said Iran would seek to divide the Kurds as a means of blocking the quest for independence in what is now the territory administered by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
“No regional or world country has the right to meddle in the struggle of Kurdistan and make decisions on behalf of people of Kurdistan,” said the statement from the KNC, which was established to pursue a common political vision for Kurds from across the Middle East.
Last month’s collapse of the Iraqi army in Mosul and other Sunni areas of Iraq has effectively cut the Kurdistan region from the rest of the country. Kurdish forces are now defending a border of around 1,000 km with the self-declared Islamic State, formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Iraq’s internal crisis prompted Massoud Barzani, KRG president, to ask the parliament in Erbil to prepare for a referendum in which the people of Kurdistan would determine their future.
Tehran has rejected any Kurdish independence bid and has issued warnings against holding a referendum.
Salahadin Muhtadi, a Kurdish politician from Iran, said Kurdish unity was the best weapon with which to confront such attempts to sabotage the Kurds’ long awaited dream of independence.
“Iran is a big country. Any big country that borders a smaller people like Kurds can impact it and can do harm to it,” Muhtadi told Rudaw.
“But Kurds have their own weapon. Unification of all parts of Kurdistan, cooperation, and assistance are the guns in Kurdish hands. If we can help each other, we can convince the bigger countries,” he added.
Last week, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the Iranian deputy foreign minister, referred to alleged attempts to break up Iraq as a “Zionist plot” that Tehran would never allow to succeed. “We will not forget that in recent days the only official who, with excitement and much happiness, supported the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan and encouraged the region to secede was Netanyahu,” he told al Alalam TV, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“We shall never allow Netanyahu’s dreams in Iraq and our region of splintering an important and sensitive region of Western Asia to come true,” Amir-Abdollahian said.
Last month, Netanyahu was among Israeli leaders who said he would welcome the creation of a Kurdish state in northern Iraq.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham has since declared: “Undoubtedly the vigilant Iraqi people will not allow the Zionist regime and enemies of a unified Iraq to carry out their plots and realize their immature fantasies in the region.”
The view of the Tehran authorities was echoed in Iran’s Resalat newspaper, which accused Kurdish leaders of conspiracy with the Israelis to divide Iraq. “No doubt Barzani and Kurdish leaders are aware of the risks of dividing Iraq and a declaration of Kurdistan State. Not just Iraq, but Iran, Syria and Turkey would not accept Kurdistan separation in the face of the dangerous plots of Zionism, America and particularly Britain,” the newspaper said in a signed editorial.
The KRG’s diplomats in Tehran rejected the charges. “No other ethnic or religious community in Iraq has done as much as the Kurds to implement the law and practice democracy,” said Muhammad Sidiq, the KRG’s deputy representative to Tehran.
“What President Barzani says is the reflection of people’s views and will. Our government and people are not a part of any foreign plot against our neighbors, in particular the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he added.
Despite the threats coming from Tehran, the leader of the Kurdish Komala Party, Said Ibrahim Ali Zada, said Iran cannot do much to stop Kurds from holding a referendum, although it could interfere afterwards.
“The Islamic Republic cannot hinder a referendum of the people of Kurdistan. But if Kurdistan becomes independent, certainly, the Islamic Republic would confront it with all its powers and efforts,” Ali Zada told Rudaw.
Ali Zada said Turkey’s potential support for an independent Kurdistan could prove ephemeral once independence was declared. “Not just the Islamic Republic, but also Turkey will oppose Kurdistan independence despite pretending it would not reject it. If it happens, the Turkish state will stand against it,” he said.