Israel supports Kurdish independence to divide Iraqis: Shia leader

Rudaw – A top Iraqi Shia leader, Ammar al-Hakim, who heads the Shia National Alliance has told the Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani that Israel supports the Kurdish referendum on independence in order to create divisions and that such a project will have a domino effect across the entire region.   

“Israel has always sought to have a strong base in the Middle East and, because of this, supports holding referendum, dividing Iraq, and creating divisions among the Iraqi people,” Hakim is quoted as saying in a statement published by the Iranian parliament Tuesday.

“The disintegration of Iraq would not be limited to this country, it would influence the entire region and would be in the interest of those who always sought to divide the Shiites and the Kurds,” he says.

However, a short statement published on Hakim’s official Facebook page on his meeting with Larijani did not mention these remarks. It said that they discussed developing their bilateral relations, the war against ISIS, and that the declaration of victory in Mosul sets a “date to launch the National Settlement project based on the principles of guarantees, compromises and mutual resistances.”

Hakim has been working on what he terms National Settlement Project for more than a year and he has met with Iraqi parties and sought the support of such neighboring and regional countries as Iran and Jordan as well the Arab league.   The National Alliance leader al-Hakim stated in late December that his group’s initiative also includes the Kurdistan Region.   The initiative’s core principle is to build future relations between Iraq’s different religious and ethnic communities and political parties.   “The objective behind this initiative is to preserve Iraq and strengthening it as an independent state, as a sovereign, united, federal, and democratic country,” a document from the alliance reads.

Al-Hakim also met with president Hassan Rouhani of Iran in the capital Tehran, with Rouhani reiterating their opposition to the referendum, and calling any attempt that threatens a “united and stable Iraq”, “unacceptable”.

This comes as the Shiite Alliance that holds the position of the Iraqi prime minister has formed a seven-member committee to negotiate the future relations between Erbil and Baghdad as the Kurdistan Region has scheduled September 25 for holding referendum on independence.   Abdullah Zeid, who heads the committee denied on Tuesday that the Iraqi constitution allows for Kurdistan to go on with the referendum.

“There is nothing in the constitution called holding referendum on separation,” Zeid told Rudaw. “There is referendum in the constitution over the disputed areas to find a solution on whether they want to stay with Baghdad or the Kurdistan Region.”   He added that holding the referendum is not as problematic as would its consequences.

“The problem is not about holding the referendum. It is about the legal implications that would come to existence after holding the referendum,”   Erbil says that the referendum would include all areas in the Kurdistan Region, and the disputed areas, otherwise called Kurdistani areas by Erbil, such as the oil-rich Kirkuk.

Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani even went as far as saying that there was no longer a word called “disputed areas” in “our dictionary.”   The Kurdish presidency also told Rudaw on Tuesday that the upcoming talks set to begin officially after the Kurdish referendum with Baghdad would be unlike any previous talks held over the last 14 years.    This time it would be about how the two can be “good neighbors.”

The spokesperson for the Kurdish presidency, Omed Sabah, said that the new Iraq that came about after the US invasion proved to a “failed experience.”   “The talks that will take place would be different from the previous talks. Previous talks centered around the executive issues and the constitutional settlements of the Kurdistan Region,” Sabah said.   “But the talks this time will have a different framework. After the people of Kurdistan cast their legitimate vote on 25 September, certainly the Kurdistan would enter another phase. The talks would [then] be about how we, as two good and in harmony neighbors, could help each other, and become the center for one another” he added.

Al-Hakim had said in April that an independent Kurdistan will create a “political tsunami” the waves of which will be felt across the entire region and no country except Israel will recognize it. Iraq is not ready to give consent to a Kurdish independence referendum for now, and should Kurds follow through with independence, it may unleash a storm that encourages Sunni and Shiite areas to follow suit creating several Iraqs, Iraq’s influential Shiite leader Ammar al-Hakim said in an interview aired on Wednesday.

He said then that  given the ongoing crises in Kurdistan, Iraq, and the region, the time is not right for an independent state, despite the fact that they “understand and respect” Kurdish dreams for a country of their own.     These remarks come from a Shiite leader with whom Kurdish politicians have had better relations than most other Iraqi leaders. Al-Hakim’s family have long maintained good ties with the Kurds and his rebel group found itself in the same camp as the Kurds fighting the former regime of Saddam Hussein.