Today the women and men of Kurdistan will answer the most
important question of their lives. Should Kurdistan break away from
Iraq to pursue its independence, or should it preserve a status quo of
unstable co-existence under the rule of the Iraqi state.
The Kurds in Iraq approach this fateful day with their homework being
done. Since 1991, they have practiced self-rule. They have elected a
parliament, written a constitution, built national institutions, engaged
in a deadly war against ISIS, pushed back the murderous
organization and defended their borders However, upon the historical
decision to hold a referendum for their independence, which will then
lead to negotiations with Iraq’s central government, the Kurds have
awakened to the shortcomings of their efforts. At this crucial point in
time, the Kurds have found themselves abandoned and standing
there practically alone.
Surprisingly, the U.S superpower, which gained its own independence
following a fateful decision to unilaterally break away from the British
Empire, “strongly opposes” the Kurdish vote on independence, and
“urges the KRG to engage in negotiations with Iraq”.
If my memory serves me correctly, soon after writing the declaration
of Independence, America’s founding fathers voted on proclaiming
Independence, to the demise of the British, who strongly opposed
this audacious act.
Was American democracy in 1776 perfect? It certainly was not.
Neither is the current Kurdish democracy. This doesn’t mean, of
course, that the Kurds are not ready or eligible to their independence.
It is quite clear why the respective Iranian, Turkish and Iraqi
governments are trying to intimidate and threaten Kurds with military
invasion, blockade and other deterring measures. It is astonishing,
however, why the US seems to be accommodating these countries
interests rather than supporting its trusted allies in their legitimate
quest for independence.
Thus far, the only country to openly declare its support of Kurdish
independence has been Israel. It is no secret that Israel has
maintained close relations with the Barazani family in Kurdistan over
the years, and that many Kurds identify their own suffering with that
of persecuted Jews. There are numerous reasons why many Israelis
express support for the Kurdish cause. I will count few of them.
The first reason stems from morality. The Middle East is home to
roughly 30 million Kurds, who reside in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.
They have remained the largest ethnic group to seek independence
for many years.
In spite of the Kurds efforts, the world has shown little interest in their
cause, and has stood idly by as they suffered ethnic cleansing,
poison gas and torture.
Like the Jewish people, who hoped and prayed for world support in
1947, the Kurds are now seeking global support. Nearly 70 years ago
the U.S claimed Israel’s declaration of Independence was premature
However, based on their own experience, both the US and Israel can
confirm that there is no time like the present for independence. It is
important to stress that some Israelis who all together support the
Kurds and at the same time object the Palestinian pursuit of
independence, are contradicting themselves. They apply the same
rhetoric vis-à- vis the Palestinians that Iran, Turkey and Iraq use vis-
à- vis the Kurds. The circumstances are different, the conflicts are
long and entangled, yet the quest of independence and the right for
self-determination is of course similar.
The second reason concerns Middle East alliances. Israel was
isolated from its neighboring countries for decades, as a result of
deep animosity, wars and conflicts. Looking for allies and partners
Israel reached out to the Kurdish people, Iran, Turkey and Sudan, in
an attempt to form a so-called “periphery alliance”.
Some of these alliances were doomed to fall. Domestic changes in
Iran, Turkey and Sudan put an end to this move. Islamic Republic of
Iran became Israel’s archenemy, ties with Sudan were cut and
relations with Turkey became weaker. The alliance between the
Kurds and Israel, however, has proven to be the exception. The
alliance is strategic, and not merely tactical, as Israel and the Kurds
join forces in fighting various forms of Sunni and Shia Islamic
radicalism, with the hope of building a prosperous, democratic and
To date, America’s “One Iraq” strategy has backfired, damaging both
American and Israeli interests. Iran has largely spread its influence in
Iraq and aims to achieve territorial continuity, so that it may rule over
the vast territory between Tehran and Quneitra (Syria). Today, the
Kurd’s autonomous region is nearly the only obstacle to fulfilling
If Iraqi Kurdistan becomes an independent state, Iran’s dream of
extending hegemony over the Kurdish region will be ruined.
hegemony over the Kurdish region will be ruined. Hence, supporting
the Kurds is not only morally justified. Independent Kurdish state will
without doubt stand in the way of Iran’s imperial ambitions in the
It is obvious that the time for Kurdish independence is now. The
Kurds have suffered and struggled long enough for that. Their
oppressors are dangerous to world’s order, stability in the region and
democracy. Today the world must work with the Kurds to prevent
bloodshed, ethnic cleansing, or, heaven forbid, another genocide.
Ksenia Svetlova is a member of the Israeli Knesset for the Zionist Union party,
and serves as the head of the Knesset pro-Kurdish lobby.