In an interview with Kurdpress Akeel Saffar warned Kurdistan Region leaders, including President Masoud Barzani, that Baghdad has options to counter Kurds if they persist on going ahead with the polls.
Following is the full text of his interview with Kurdpress on Saturday, September 23;
Do you predict the will go ahead in holding the referendum or it would accept the alternatives offered by the world powers?
I think the referendum would take place on Monday as Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani was very serious over the issue during his speech yesterday (in Erbil on Friday). He refused the global alternatives and, actually, the Iraqi people and government do not have more to present (to the Kurds)?
What and how would the central government in Baghdad react in case the northern Kurdish region holds the vote on the scheduled date?
The Iraqi government and the Iraqi people, in general, are still optimistic that Barzani would be back down and take advices and that he could slow down his tone. But if he insists on holding the referendum and rejects all the offers, there are a lot of ways for the Iraqi government and we, the Iraqi people and government, have to do what we have to do, taking the presidency post from the Kurds as the Kurds should not hold the post any longer. There is no reason for the Kurdish ministers and advisors to stay in their posts in the Iraqi government as they are voting for Barzani and independence. Before they were like proxies for Kurdish people and now they are not going to be in the Iraqi border and government. At last if we go further; there is no reason to keep Kurdish deputies in the Iraqi parliament in Baghdad.
Regarding the financial ties between the central federal government and the government in Erbil, there is no reason anymore to fund the Kurdish region because the Kurds would be independent and it means they would invest on their oil and other minerals revenues in the region. I also should add that the region and Barzani owe to the central government tens of billions of dollars
Will the central government hold further talks with the region if it takes the vote? And will it accept the results?
I personally do not think so and I would not advice so, as at the end of the day, he (Barzani) will say we are the Kurdish government and you are the federal government. So let him to solve his problems as, I think, he will be in chaos as not all Kurds are with him and are accompanying him. Secondly, there are a lot of Kurdish politicians inside and outside the government who do not back Barzani. I think that Iraqi people and government should support those opposition politicians and people in Kurdistan Region.
The terrorist group of the Islamic State (IS) is closing to its end in Iraq. So, if the central government is not ready to negotiate with the Kurdistan Region after the referendum; do you believe Baghdad would conduct a military operation against the Kurdish enclave in the areas like Kirkuk, Nainewa and Shingal?
The Iraqi people and government are not happy with the situation and they are trying to keep the state united inside the present borders. But, fighting against the Kurds is the last solution because, retrospectively, the Iraqi people, the Shia people and scholars in particular, have been against fighting and the Fatwa by Seyed Muhsen al-Hakim in the 60th prevents us from fighting against the Kurds and as it called any clashes with Kurds forbidden; that’s why the Iraqi people and soldiers should not kill Kurdish people and Peshmerga fighters. The Kurds, still, remember this Fatwa and the people in Iraq are following this Fatwa too. At last, we are not separated as we have social relationships, like marriage, with the Kurdish people.
In addition the Kurds in Iraq have lots of benefits in Basra, al-Musana and are representing a lot of foreign companies in Baghdad. As I said before, Barzani is not representing all the Kurds in the region.
As an expert in economic and security affairs of the Middle East, is the planned referendum of the region legally right and permitted?
The referendum is legally totally wrong. The last referendum in the world was the referendum of independence for Scotland as the state wanted to quit Britain. The referendum was not only for Scotland but it was held all over the UK. And the referendum in Quebec and Switzerland they were held all over the countries. This referendum can be held all over Iraq to ask the Iraq people if they accord with the separation of the northern region. In that case, it will be according to the constitution and it will be also the vote of all the Iraqi people.
So the referendum is illegal and to become legal it has to be held all over the country. But if Barzani insists on going ahead with that, it has to be held in all the 15 provinces of the country.
As the president of the Kurdistan region, Barzani states that the Iraqi constitution has been violated in 50 cases by Baghdad. And, according to him, these violations have made him to go ahead with the poll. Do you believe that the constitution has been violated and can it be a good reason for holding the referendum?
First of all, he is exaggerating. There are violations but they are not 50 or 55, as I have heard from him, and secondly these cases can be corrected by the constitution and the Iraqi people and government have opened their hearts and hands and doors for talking and negotiation with the region; which means there are quite good possibilities to recover the situation and correct the violations through the constitution. As in Islam divorce is the last point for the two partners, and Iraq we are all one nation and it means that Masoud Barzani does not have the right to separate this nation.
Also independence and separation cannot be decided because of misunderstanding because misunderstandings can be corrected and we can reach to an understanding for the benefit of the whole country and the Kurdish people and Arab people.
Who will this fighting benefit from? If we fight the Kurds or if the Kurds fight us; I think we both lose, either from the Iraqi army and the Kurdish forces of Peshmerga who are both Iraqis.
Some regional states have warned to impose economic sanctions against the region. As an economist, what do you think about the warnings?
Turkish government and the Turks, in general, are strict and when they say something they would implement it. I believe there would be not only economic sanctions but also military movements against the region. The Turkish parliament is going to extend its mandate for operation in Iraq and I think the Turks would not be patient as Barzani seeks to get his Kurdish state. They will move faster than he thought. There is another point. I should add that Barzani is reading the situation incorrectly as the Iraqi government is the most understanding government in the region as it has delivered all the rights to its Kurds. It has given them more than they are supposed to. So, the rights are there and if Barzani is seeking the benefits of the Kurds he has to go to Turkey and Iran to get the rights of the Kurds in those countries. The Iraqi government and people are ready to give more rights to the Kurds as we have done before but Barzani did make a big mistake taking this way.
Where the U.S. and Russia in this game?
I cannot take their (the American politicians, and at the top of them President Trump) statements seriously because they do not implement whatever they state and their nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran is a good example for this case; as it took about six years to be finalized and signed and they put their signature at the bottom of the deal but at the end of the day they went against it. So they did not even respect their signature in this case. And now they say they are not supporting the Kurdish referendum and the independence of the Kurds and claim that the time is not right for it. But I cannot take it seriously because they would possibly change their minds or maybe there are some hidden agenda in this case.
I think the reaction by the Russia is a bit better as Moscow has a good understanding with Iran, Iraq and Turkey as well as Syria. So, I think Russia is more sincere in what it says and President Putin is more considerate and looks for the benefits of Russia related to Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.
I ultimately want to stress that Barzani is totally wrong about the referendum and he should go to get the rights of the Kurds in Iran and Turkey and Syria as Iraqi government and people are ready to give the Kurds their rights as it has done before, but not in this way and at this tough situation. But if he still wants to go ahead with the plan, the Iraqi government should take serious steps against it through aiding and supporting the Kurdish oppositions, financially and politically; in order to help the Kurdish people to get rid of this leadership as he is leading the Kurds into a chaos.
Reporter’s code: 50101