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Dr. Abd al-Wahhab Al-Qassab
The Kurdish Federalism - a Preliminary Study

Klaas Glenewinkel
Federalism is an acceptable model of rule to which political subdivisions agree upon. These subdivisions, driven by their own interests, decide to unite in order to establish a new unified entity which combines…

The above introduction leads to a very important observation: these unions generally emerged as the union of independent entities, such as the USA, the Swiss Confederation, and the former Soviet Union. All these were a union of independent entities, or entities whose independence is recognized, in order to establish a union. This new union achieves their aspirations and meets their needs. It is worth noting that there has never been an example of a simple central entity becoming a federal entity. The opposite may be true. For example, the United Libyan Kingdom was changed from the states of Barqa, Tripoli, and Fazzan into a country with the name the Libyan Kingdom, and then it became the Libyan Arab Republic, then the Libyan Arab Peoples Jamahiriya.

Contemporary Iraq was established from the three provinces: Baghdad, Mosul, and Basra. The Ottoman administrative system gave the province of Baghdad priority over the other two provinces. Iraqi Kurdistan followed two provinces: Baghdad and Mosul. Shahrizur (Sulaymaniya) was under Baghdad’s jurisdiction, while the rest of Kurdistan was under Mosul’s jurisdiction.

Iraq suffered far more in its modern history because of the Kurdish problem than its eastern neighbor, Iran, or northern neighbor, Turkey, suffered even though there are many more Kurds in these two countries than in Iraq. However, Iraq learned a lesson from the mishandling of the Kurdish issue. In 1970, Iraq granted the Kurds self-rule, which was the most the Kurdish movement had requested. Partnership emerged between the regime and the Kurdish movement (the Party Group continued to ebb and flow for four years).

After the Gulf War in 1991 and the blow which the regime received, it withdrew its central administration from the three Kurdish governorates: Dohuk, Irbil, and Sulaymaniya under an unjustifiable pretext. Since then, a unique situation has existed in northern Iraq. The three governorates were separated from the rest of Iraq because they were outside its rule. But formally, they are an inseparable, legitimate part of Iraq. The Kurdish movement took advantage of this situation by seeking to establish and strengthen their Kurdish identity and distinguishing it from their Iraqi identity by reluctantly adopting the slogan of federalism, in order to reassure the neighboring regions, which rejected Kurdish independence.

Because of the distance from the center, calls for separatism emerged under the slogan of self-determination. Even realistic Kurds were not able to avoid the move toward independence, so they demanded optional union.

We as Iraqi Arabs consider ourselves eternal partners with the Kurds in our joint country Iraq. We are the largest two nationalist movements. We have been in Iraq for three thousand years. Therefore, it hurts us to hear calls for separatism and fragmentation, or to hear the huge area of the province supposedly needed for Kurdistan federalism. This area includes large regions which are not at all Kurdish. We believe that exaggeration, by raising the ceiling of demands, will reflect negatively on the process of rescuing and building Iraq. Moreover, to function independently while the country is in a weak position is not compatible with the chivalry which characterizes the noble Kurdish people.

We acknowledge that the Kurdish people have the right to practice their nationalistic rights within a united Iraq. However, the view that staying within Iraq is doing it a favor and relinquishing their rights is compatible neither with the facts of history nor with political reality.

Dr. Abd al-Wahhab Al-QassabFormer Brigadier-General in the Iraqi Army, Secretary-General of the “Al-Zaman Center for Strategic Studies” in Beirut


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