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Kurd issue: For Russia and USA, it is better to get back to 2014

The developments around the Iraqi Kurdistan have continued raising the tension in the region, Earlier, the opposition called Masoud Barzani to resign blaming him for the “disaster” the Kurds found themselves after losing Kirkuk that was taken by the Iraqi troops on October 16.

Talking to EADaily, Armenian expert in Oriental studies Armen Petrosyan said that the situation can get out of control, if the leadership of the Iraqi Kurdistan resorts to ultimate measures by recognizing the independence based on the outcomes of a referendum held in late September.

The Kurd issue is one of the key factors in the region, and no regional or global player would profit from further increase of tension. Regional players like Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, are concerned that the Kurdish referendum may provoke a chain reaction. If they manage to complete the process of recognition and establishment of the Kurd state, Syria may be the next. The anti-terror operation will be succeeded by the political settlement process and if the Kurds are lucky in Iraq, their Syrian brothers will definitely not be waiting aside and would want to gain independence. Well, in fact, they are enjoying control over both political and economic life and security in the territories where they live.

The Kurds say they are ready for talks with Baghdad and want no bloodshed, but are prepared to face the challenge. At the same time, Baghdad is ready for a dialog only in case if Erbil abandons the outcomes of the referendum. Consequently, Iraqi government troops have seized Kirkuk that since 2014 had been controlled by the Kurdish militants. What’s next?

I think the Iraqi Kurdistan’s leadership led by Masoud Barzani is to blame for the situation. Barzani’s supporters tried to use the chaos in the region and establish their own state; however, they missed the key fact that both Turkey and Iran involved in the processes will first of all try to settle security issues that are directly connected with the Kurd factor.

Second, they did not expect that geopolitical actors involved in the Middle-East processes would try to ease the tension and they would not welcome new hot spots in the conflict zone. Only short-sighted and inexperienced people could fail to forecast this. Positions of the Iraqi Kurdistan leadership were much more solid in 2014-15, when the Kurds celebrated their first victories in fighting against the Islamic State. Then, Erbil could agree to talks with Baghdad playing from the vantage point. But they lost time after that. And the way to the independence they chose brought them to the point where Kurds lost allies like Turkey or the U.S. They have only one ally left in the isolation they are facing now, and this is Israel plus several Arab countries that can render only indirect support.

As a result of the mistake made by the Kurds, the Iraqi government has become more fetterless and aggressive in their actions. Thus, they manage to retain control over the territories they lost in 2013-14. There is only one hope left in such a situation that Barzani and his supporters do comprehend in what situation they find themselves and this will enable them starting the negotiation process.

What do you think of Russia’s position on the issue?

Moscow’s position and influence is much more stronger in Syria. In Iraq, the Kurds are largely influenced by Turkey and the United States. That is why Russia has not been very active there. Even today, future of the Iraqi Kurds is mostly dependent on the US stance. In Syria, since the beginning of the conflict, Russia being major ally of the Damascus has striven for improving the situation and offered a platform for the dialog. At various international sites dedicated to the Syrian conflict settlement, Russia always insisted that Kurds must be a part of it, while Ankara was against it. In this context, I guess, we shall still be witness to more proactive position of the Russian side on the issues related to the Syrian Kurds and their future. One must not forget that as early as in the beginning of 2017, Moscow proposed its own scenario for the Syrian conflict settlement and a draft constitution that envisaged a federative state with large opportunities for the Kurdish autonomy.

On November 1, presidential and parliamentary elections were scheduled to take place, but the leadership has recently announced that they will be postponed. Actually, no one can guarantee that the elections won’t take place. What should we expect in this case?

It is quite expected that the process will be developing depending on the situational decisions. The Kurdish side announced they are postponing the elections, however, based on the developments, they still can be organized. But this step can bring about military intervention from Turkey and Iran outcomes of which are quite unpredictable now.

Meanwhile, I am sure that for non-regional players, Moscow and Washington, it is desirable to get back to the situation of 2013-14 and the borders that existed before the offensive of the Islamic State.

Interviewed by Lia Khojoyan

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