Iraqi Kurds are committed to preserving their country’s borders despite their longtime yearning for an independent state, a leader of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region told The Washington Times.
“You can never say never, and every Kurd deep down yearns for independence,” said Barham Salih, prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). “But I live in that neighborhood. The reality of politics, the reality of the region has certain obligations on one as you make your decisions.
Mr. Salih, who met Tuesday with Vice President Joseph R. Biden, said the Kurds have shown they are more concerned with Iraq’s stability and survival “than many of their Arab compatriots who are fighting it out over power in Baghdad.”
“Should Iraq be dismembered, I can say that it won’t be the Kurds who will be the agents of division,” Mr. Salih said, vowing that the Kurds would not seek independence “so long as the constitution of Iraq is respected.”
Iraqi Kurds compose about one-fifth of the country’s 30.4 million people and are concentrated in its three northernmost, oil-rich provinces. They have enjoyed autonomy since the imposition of no-fly zones after the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Questions about Iraq’s future as a democracy and a single state have abounded since President Obama’s announcement last month that the U.S. would withdraw all its troops by the end of the year.
“Undeniably, we are concerned - and we must be concerned - about the new face [of Iraq] in the aftermarth of American redeployment from Iraq,” he said, noting that Iraqi Kurds had benefited from U.S. military engagement during the past two decades.
But Mr. Salish said he hopes to find a “silver lining” in the situation. “The Kurd in me obliges me to be an optimist,” he said.
In July, the KRG achieved one of its longtime objectives: the opening of a U.S. Consulate in the region’s capital of Erbil. Mr. Salih said his priority now is to promote U.S. investment in the oil-rich region.
“America and the West in general have had a troubled relationship with the Muslim world,” he said.View Entire Story
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Ben Birnbaum is a reporter covering foreign affairs for The Washington Times. Prior to joining The Times, Birnbaum worked as a reporter-researcher at the New Republic. A Boston-area native, he graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University with a degree in government and psychology. He won multiple collegiate journalism awards for his articles and columns in the Cornell Daily Sun.
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