We in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, after the 2003 war that the United States called Operation Iraqi Freedom, opted for a genuine partnership within the new Iraq, believing that it would be federal and democratic; a federal government based on consensus, wealth and power-sharing.
With many promises made by the international community before and after 2003, the system that was “planned” for Iraq clearly failed as a whole. We were assured that replacing platonic, non-functioning plans with a well-structured system of confederation for Iraq and Kurdistan could save us all.
Rewinding back to 1991, followed by years of bloodshed in the Kurdish parts of Iraq, it was only through the efforts of the international community that the people of Kurdistan established a government and system of their own after the uprising against the former dictator. Against all the odds, this marked a new era for the nascent Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the eyes of the international community.
Although we went through tough times in the early days of the establishment of our pluralistic government, we developed our own system, a market economy, and worked to nurture our democracy. We built bridges with the rest of the world. Unfortunately, because of the sectarian politics of the government at the center, among other reasons, our efforts were never reflected in the rest of Iraq, and our success shined too brightly in their eyes.
The failure pile-ups of the relationship between the KRG and Baghdad naturally led to the Kurdistan Region seeking an alternative path. However, we were denied the right to determine our fate.
The people of Kurdistan hold their own culture and identity, content with values of pluralism, democracy and peaceful coexistence, and denial of this will only lead to unwanted outcomes. If we are expected to stay as part of Iraq, the status quo needs to shift. This limbo of not being allowed independence — and yet not being granted the legitimate rights to which we are entitled as Iraqis — is not sustainable.
The question here is, what is the future of Kurdistan if we are denied our rights to be separate and yet we are not presented with an alternative for peaceful coexistence in Iraq? Is this realpolitik, double standard politics or hypocrisy?
The issues don’t end here. The political vacuum and unhealthy competition among different interest groups have resulted in dire consequences of instability and the emergence of terror. The U.S. Federal Government and the international community need to address the current situation on a more serious level in order to prevent further chaos.
Baghdad is responsible for the lack of resources and revenue in our region, which is causing great disappointment among the people of Kurdistan. They are not receiving their fair share of bread and water for sustain life. Economic sanctions, bans on international flights, and attempts to isolate the Kurdistan Region of Iraq from the outside world are causing even more harm to the economy of the region.
The damage affects not only the Kurdistan Region locals but also the nearly 1.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees hosted in the safe haven of Kurdistan. There are no grounds for power and wealth-sharing in Iraq.
In addition, media headlines glorifying Iraq these days neither positively serve the status quo nor properly portray the reality of the deep-rooted conflicts plaguing the country as a whole. Pretending otherwise is to allow bigger problems to ferment for the future.
The international community is responsible for supporting Iraq as a whole and not Baghdad alone, at the expense of Kurdistan. A strong, stable and thriving Kurdistan Region will positively contribute to a strong, peaceful Iraq that can be the beacon for co-existence in a part of the world where this is a rarity.
Kurds, Shias and Sunnis in Iraq need structural reorganization of the relations that bind them together. The current state of relations causes increased tensions between the groups. A modus operandi, in form of a confederation, is the most convenient escape for the different groups in aiming to resolve the pressing issues of today.
The only way for Iraq to bring about internal stability is to reorganize itself based on healthy dialogue with entities within the country. Otherwise, in its current state, the country will remain unstable and on the edge of turmoil, which is not in anyone's interest.