- - Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Kurds of northern Iraq have demonstrated their commitment to open and honest government and to their loyalty to the United States and the West. I think they deserve a chance at independence. The U.S. and Iraqi governments should support them.

Kurdish people, who are the largest ethnicity in the world without a state to claim as their own, deserve to be given what every other people in the world long for and many people have achieved. That is a country that reflects their own people.

The borders of Iraq are not sacrosanct, and in fact are the contrivance of British and French diplomats working behind closed doors at the end of World War I. Just because some fat old British colonialist drew the lines this way doesn’t mean that we have to stick with them forever.

At the very least, Kurds deserve, in whatever country in which they live, their own self-governing state — whether it’s in Iraq or in Syria or in Iran.

They have every right to self-government, to their own schools, to their own language, and to their own culture.

Having led a congressional delegation to Iraq over the Christmas break in late 2014, I witnessed first-hand the humanitarian crisis caused by the ISIS uprising in the region six months earlier, and I observed the remarkable human compassion of the Kurdish people. Almost overnight, the Kurdish Regional Government’s population of 4 million jumped to 6 million, due to the influx of desperate refugees from the Nineveh Plain and from the northern cities of Iraq.

I said then, and I will repeat it now, the Kurdish people deserve our gratitude. The Kurdistan Regional Government and especially Nechirvan Barzani, should be recognized and applauded for their courage and generosity in providing refuge to 2 million desperate and displaced persons, many of whom are Christians. Of the 6 million people living in Kurdistan, close to 2 million are there seeking shelter from bloodthirsty ISIS militants who have committing unspeakable crimes against them. Men, women and children — singled out as Christians — are being brutally driven from their ancient homeland with only the clothes on their backs.

The protection offered by the Kurds is a tribute to their historic benevolence and speaks well of their values as a people. Kurdistan extends this generosity, even while its own resources and infrastructure are severely strained. This humanitarian gesture, itself a drama of biblical dimension, shows Muslim, Yazidi and Christian believers can live in peace and together resist the common evil of religious intolerance.

We may look at this display of common purpose in Kurdistan as an example of how, united with people of other faiths, we can make this a better world.

Yes, there are dozens of issues to be ironed out — over a homeland for minorities such as Turkmen, Yezidis and Christians, over the sharing of oil revenues and use of transportation infrastructure to ports. Yet, there is no reason to believe that neighboring countries will be less cooperative to the United States if an independent democracy appears in the region. On the contrary, it sends a message to those countries that the United States respects and honors its partners.

The Kurdish government and people have earned our support, both for their generosity and their courageous, bloody battle against an evil that threatens to overwhelm the Middle East and put the United States and other countries in jeopardy. It is long since past time that we recognize the Kurdish people as an independent nation and not a subjugated province of Iraq.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats.

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