If there is one party in Iraq that has the right to pack its bags and secede, it’s the Kurds. They are not Arabs and have only recently become Iraqis. They have been prosecuted and gassed and attempted administrative secession, which was successful for twelve years after the liberation of Kuwait. However, I can’t imagine that the idea of secession has come into the minds of Kurdish Iraqi politicians as they have participated in establishing the new Iraq and taken part in governing the country from Baghdad.
Before delving into the controversy of lowering the Iraqi flag and raising that of Kurdistan or before looking at the disputes that have occurred between Kurds and other Iraqis, we ought to examine primarily the practices of the Kurds in northern Iraq before judging what is being said.
Northern Iraq, i.e. Kurdistan has become a refuge for many Iraqi Arab elites who have fled the living hell of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities that suffer from bombings, assassinations and a shattered economy. The Kurds have received over 30,000 Iraqi Arabs over the recent period. Arbil and Sulaimaniyah have become central Iraqi cities rather than Baghdad which has been crippled by terrorism, sectarian discord and the barricades of the American security forces. Kurdistan, as its leader Masud Barzani said, has practically become more Iraqi than Arab Sunni Ramadi and Arab Shiite Basra. This is owing to the fact that it has become a safe haven for all Iraqis, the most active in Iraqi affairs and the only successful Iraqi model.
The Iraqi dispute over the issue of the flag reminds me of the controversy over the Confederate Flag in the United States as it symbolizes the separation of the south and is still raised despite the fact that it is illegitimate. The controversy around the flag continues today as it has for the past 250 years; however what matters is that the trusted flag that most people see is that of the United States. Over two centuries have passed and over 500 American movements have emerged, celebrating the separatist flag and all that it symbolizes.
Iraqis should know that secession is easy but it has a very high as it will transform each territory into a small state in a world that takes pride in coalitions, expansions and penetration. What had suppressed the secession of the Basques in Spain and the Irish Republican Army which sought separation from Britain was not the central military forces but rather the ideological and practical shifts of globalization. Belonging to Europe through Britain has become more important to the Irish than living in an isolated independent Ireland. The situation is similar for the Kurds and Arab Sunnis and Shiites. It is in their interest to preserve the large country that enjoys certain advantages that other countries do not regardless of their size.
Iraq is enduring a traumatic phase; however it is a phase that Iraqis will overcome. The Iraqis will eventually enjoy the greatness, the richness and the prosperity of the country as well as a central and influential regime. The Kurds have been patient for over two decades as they endured the unjust regime in Baghdad, why then would they not be patient until the Iraqi crisis ends, when they can finally make a wiser decision regarding secession?