Iraqi-Kurdish official claims referendum vote 'negotiating tactic' with Baghdad

Iraqi-Kurdish official claims referendum vote 'negotiating tactic' with Baghdad
A top Iraqi Kurdish official has claimed that Erbil wants to remain a part of Iraq, but only if the Shia-led government in Baghdad changes its ways.
2 min read
15 July, 2017
Iraqi Kurds will vote on independence on September 25 this year [AFP]

A top official from Iraq's Kurdish government has said that the planned independence referendum is nothing more than a negotiating tactic aimed at pressuring Baghdad into meeting promises on energy and power sharing.

Nazem Dabbagh, who represents the Kurdistan Regional Government in Tehran, said he was adamant that Iraqi Kurds would prefer to remain part of Iraq, despite calling for an independence vote for the Kurdish territories later this year.

"We are doing this [holding the referendum] to resolve our problems in Iraq," Dabbagh said in an interview with AFP.

"For now, we do not have the intention of separating."

He accused Baghdad of failing to fulfil several key promises outlined in the Iraqi constitution of 2005, which has led to the impasse and 25 September vote.

This includes resolving the status of Kirkuk, a city on the border between the Kurds' semi-autonomous region and the rest of Iraq.

Baghdad, he says, has also failed to ratify laws on oil revenues and funding for the Kurdish security forces, known as the Peshmerga, despite the latter's crucial role in helping push back the Islamic State group in northern Iraq.

"We don't feel that Iraq accepts us. For this reason, we seek to use appropriate opportunities - through diplomacy, parliament and the people - in order to demand our rights. If they [Iraq] don't want to solve our problems, our people are ready to sacrifice," he added.

Dabbagh also said he feared that Iraqi forces would attack Kurdish positions now that the fight to seize Mosul from the Islamic State group was over.

"I believe that a Baathist mentality still exists among some Iraqi leaders," said Dabbagh, referring to the previous regime under Saddam Hussein.

"They don't accept others. They always resort to military force to resolve problems."

Of the pro-government Shia militias operating in Iraq, Dabbagh said he was "one hundred percent" sure that they would begin attacking Kurdish regions of the country.

But the top Kurdish-Iraqi diplomat in Tehran said independence for the Kurds was "impossible" and a violation of the country's constitution.

"If a Kurdish state is born, it will be still-born. I hope my brother Kurds will act with more wisdom and won't choose this dangerous path," Ambassador Rageh Saber Abboud al-Musawi told Iran's Mehr news agency.