ARBIL - In a strongly worded statement, the president of Iraq's northern Kurdistan
region rejected in its entirety the report by the Iraq Study Group, and threatened
that Kurds would opt for secession from Iraq should Washington try to implement
some of the key recommendations of the report regarding Kirkuk, federalism and
The group, co-chaired by former U.S. secretary of state James Baker III and
former chairman of the House of Representatives international relations committee
Lee Hamilton "made some unrealistic and inappropriate recommendations under
the pretext that they are going to get the U.S. out of the current crisis in
Iraq," read the statement, signed by Massoud Barzani.
"If under this pretext, they want to impose their inappropriate recommendations
on us, then, on behalf of the people of Kurdistan, we announce this report is
against the constitution and interests of Iraq and Kurdistan and we will not
Barzani called for a "real national reconciliation," originating from
Iraqis themselves instead of the Iraq Study Group (ISG) report. The 160-page
document was released on Wednesday.
"The report has been affected by Arab states and especially Saudi Arabia
and I don't think it will have any chance of success," Saadi Barzinji,
a Kurdish member of Iraqi parliament, told IPS in a phone interview from Baghdad.
He criticized the report for being "unilateral and biased" in its
"From a Kurdish and Iraqi perspective, the report is not precise and
has not taken many objective factors on the ground into consideration."
The report has also divided politicians in Washington.
U.S. President George W. Bush said, after a meeting with his British ally Prime
Minister Tony Blair, that he wouldn't talk to Syria and Iran about Iraq and
would not follow all the recommendations in the report.
But Baker told the U.S. Senate Thursday that his group's report must be treated
as a whole and not "a fruit salad and say, 'I like this but I don't like
While Baker insists on treating the ISG report as a comprehensive strategy,
the Kurds' threats could pose a serious challenge to U.S. efforts to improve
the situation in Iraq in preparation for the gradual withdrawal of troops –
as the report suggests – by the end of the first quarter of 2008.
On several principal matters the approaches advised in the ISG report "are
in serious collision" with Kurdish interests and trespass Kurdish redlines.
The report advises against holding a referendum on the disputed oil-rich city
of Kirkuk, which Kurds want to be incorporated into their northern Kurdistan
"As long as the Kirkuk issue is postponed, Iraq will not witness stability,"
Iraq's constitution, approved by the country's majority Shi'ites and Kurds,
has set a three-step roadmap to "normalize the situation in Kirkuk"
and hold a referendum on its fate by the end of 2007.
The report urges the White House not to support devolution of Iraq into three
semiautonomous regions "as a policy goal or impose this outcome on an Iraqi
Experts in Kurdistan fear that would restore Iraq to the old era of strong
central regimes in the country.
"A strong central government for Iraq, as recommended in the report, is
in opposition to a federal-regional structure, which is a major Kurdish demand,"
said Azad Aslan, a history lecturer from Arbil's Salahaddin University.
"In fact, this report is nothing but an acknowledgment of the defeat of
the United States in Iraq," he added.
The national constitution facilitates the creation of semiautonomous regions
in Iraq. But Sunnis, mainly concentrated in central and western parts of the
country, worry that powerful federal regions – for Kurds in the north, and Shi'ites
in the south – would leave their relatively barren areas impoverished.
Larger roles for regional powers like Iran, Syria and Turkey "to contain
sectarian warfare" in Iraq, as prescribed by the report, implies limited
role for Kurds, they worry.
The three neighboring countries have sizable restive Kurdish populations, who
have been influenced by developments in Iraqi Kurdistan. Last year, a major
opposition party, the Kurdistan Democratic Party-Iran, adopted federalism for
Kurdish areas in Iran instead of limited self-rule that it was calling for before.
"If the U.S. is going to leave Kurds in the lures as in 1975, then they
should know that Kurds can make U.S. business – not only in Iraq but also in
neighboring countries – harder than any Sunni insurgency can do," Aslan
In 1975, Iran and Iraq reached an agreement in Algeria in which Iraq gave up
its claims to some islands in the waters between the two countries in return
for Iran's withdrawal of support for the Kurdish revolt against the Iraqi government.
That led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Kurds to Iran and the
collapse of the Kurdish self-rule system in northern Iraq.
The issue, however, is not only confined to Kurds: Iraq's Shi'ites have not
welcomed the report either.
The leader of Iraq's largest Shi'ite party, the Supreme Council for Islamic
Revolution in Iraq, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, rebuked the report for its "impreciseness"
and bluntly said, "I disagree with them (ISG)."
He dismissed a link drew by the Baker-Hamilton group between Iraq and the Palestinian-Israeli
conflict as "non existent," stressing that "Iraq's dossier has its