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Iraqi Kurds And US Expulsion Riddle

Alwaght– The Iraqi parliament’s bill calling for foreign forces to pull out of Iraq remains a trending debate topic in the Iraqi political and security circles two weeks after approval. Certainly, the American troops operating in the country are the main point of focus of this bill which obligates the Iraqi government to take steps towards its adoption.

Recently, the Iraqi government showed signs it is reviewing its security relations with the US. The Spokesman to the Iraqi armed forces Major General Abdel Karim Khalaf has recently said that the decision to expel the foreign forces from Iraq is a sovereignty decision and will cover forces operating in all parts of Iraq including the Kurdish region in the north. He said that the Kurdistan region is part of Iraq and the regional government there has no objection to the decision.

Despite these comments on the need for the Americans to leave, over the past few days, Masoud Barzani, the former president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) met the US Consul General in Erbil Steve Fagin and talked about the recent bill. Nechervan Barzani, the current president of the KRG, in recent comments tacitly opposed the American pullout from Iraq claiming that this will strengthen the possibility of ISIS re-emergence in the country. Furthermore, reports note that the KRG has given green light for the US establishment of four new military bases including one called Harir base in the territories of its control. These developments give rise to some questions: What are the Erbil leaders’ goals and concerns? Can the Kurds independently authorize the US military to stay in the north of the country?

Why Erbil wants the Americans to stay

For a long time, mainly since the uprising of Mullah Mostafa Barzani against various Iraqi governments starting from 1961 and continuing beyond 1975, the Kurds were optimistic that the Americans help them to realize their dream of separation from Iraq and foundation of an independent Kurdistan state. But so far what they have evidently observed from the US has been betrayal and avoiding to stand on commitments.

Despite the defeat in Kirkuk and return of 51 percent of the disputed regions to Baghdad, in the new critical conditions the Kurds are hopeful to get the US on their side to realize their long-waited dream of independence should tensions escalate between Washington and Baghdad, On the heels of the Iraqi parliament’s bill, Senator Mark Rubio in a tweet said: “maybe it’s time for a fully independent Kurdistan in what is currently Northern Iraq.”

From another aspect, the Iraqi Kurds are concerned about the US withdrawal. They are afraid that should the Americans go out ISIS will reorganize and threaten the borders of the autonomous region. They are also afraid to further lose the balance of power with the central government and fall in a position of weakness. But these concerns never provide a justifiable and real excuse to disobey the Iraqi constitution as this will never serve Erbil interests in the middle and long term.

Kurds and risks of US stay in northern Iraq

Although are want Americans to stay for a couple of reasons, they have no capability to determine this case and in the long run will face substantial threats to their interests and the achievements. Four reasons can prove these claims:

1. According to the Iraqi constitution, the Kurdish region is part of Iraq’s territory and sovereignty and any bill approved by the Iraqi parliament is also binding to the Kurdish region. So, the Kurds have no legal justification to advocate the American military stay or act in a way to guarantee that.

2. The Kurdish government and politicians should learn from the past that putting trust on the US has no outcome but betrayal mainly in sensitive times like in 1975. If they choose to embrace a new dispute with Baghdad in favor of the American military stay, they should expect a big defeat. Washington shows no commitment to its allies even to Europe in the time of need. The Kurds need not go a long way in the past to learn this lesson. The abrupt announcement of Donald Trump last year to withdraw his forces from northern Syria on the threshold of Turkey’s anti-Kurdish invasion should teach a big lesson to the Kurdish leaders. The US betrayal of the Kurds in Syria and leaving them to Turkey’s mercy will provide a big lesson to the White House allies for long years.

3. Kurds’ support for the American troops’ stay in northern Iraq will have no outcome but new disputes with the neighbors, especially Iran. The Iraqi Kurds should know that they should not sacrifice their friendly relations with Iran as one of their most important patrons and friends in the region to the US which comes from thousands of kilometers away from Iraq. Washington will leave the region soon or late and it is the Kurds that should think about what consequences disputes with one of the regional powers can bring to them. Iran, represented by IRGC Quds Force’s commander General Qassem Soleimani, has been a forerunner in helping the Kurds in the face of ISIS terrorist group.

4. The failed referendum experience showed that the region’s conditions and the regional and even international actors’ will do not support the Kurdish movement towards independence and the split of Iraq. It remains to the Kurdish government to understand that only through cooperation with Baghdad it can eliminate its security and economic concerns.

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