Kurdish regions in Turkey, Iraq and Syria have witnessed big developments in the past weeks as Turkey held a referendum on changing its parliamentary system to an executive presidential one, Kurdish forces in Syria advanced against the IS and arrived to the vicinity of Raqqa, the so-called capital of the group and Kurdish flag was held on governmental building in Kirkuk, northern Iraq and officials in Erbil are preparing to hold a referendum to quit Iraq and establish their own independent state. Kurdpress talked to Mr. Romano, a university professor and the president of Thomas G. Strong chair in Missouri University, over the issues. Mr. Romano is an expert in Kurdish issues and has authored a book, “Kurdish Nationalism Movement.” He told Kurdpress that the U.S. will likely cut its support to Syrian Kurds after IS and other jihadist groups were defeated in the country but will continue its support to Iraqi Kurds. He stated that Washington cannot mediate in disputes between Ankara and its Kurds in the south and southeast.
Kurdpress: we saw a bloody tension between Rojpeshmerga and forces affiliated to PKK in Shingal, what you think about causes? Do you believe it will be repeated again?
I think the KDP is under great pressure from Turkey, and also has its own reasons, to prevent the PKK from controlling Shingal and establishing another territorial base on land that the KRG claims. The Roj Peshmerga were sent as a less direct way of confronting the pro-PKK groups in Shingal, and they were about to surround those groups there and make their military position untenable. Hence the clash. I should hope that other means of dealing with this problem, short of violence, can be found.
Kurdpress: Provincial council of Kirkuk has ordered that Kurdish flag should be raised on public buildings and there should be a referendum to decide about self-determination in this city, could this lead to tension between Kurds, Turkmens and Arabs? Do Kurds try to link Kirkuk to Kurdistan Region? What are the consequences?
Yes, the KRG is trying to strengthen its claims on Kirkuk. Some Turkmen and Arab groups in Kirkuk have close relations with Baghdad and Ankara, and may be used to try and block such claims. I think most average Turkmen and Arabs in the area are not so averse to joining the Kurdistan region, but the more vociferous groups connected to Ankara and Baghdad are more politically relevant here. This is how the game is played. It’s a dangerous game, but so is letting Baghdad dictate everything.
Kurdpress: Turkey ended the Euphrates shield operation in Syria, does it mean that Kurds can establish their state in Syria? Is tension between Turks and Syrian Kurd over?
The Kurds in Syria have protection from Turkey for as long as American special forces are embedded with them and as long as Russia backs them as well. When these two conditions end, there will be trouble between them and Turkey again. They cannot establish their own state in the meantime, but they can consolidate their autonomy to the point that it becomes a fait accomplit in the region – which will increase their chances of surviving politically in the long-term.
Kurdpress: Iraqi Kurds say they are preparing for a referendum, do you believe that Iraqi Kurds can announce their own state? What are the obstacles?
I believe they can and should announce their own state. Today’s red lines will quickly fade if they do so, and they will secure international recognition very quickly if they pursue this plan correctly. A referendum is part of preparing this project well. There are risks involved, of course, but there are also significant risks with remaining in Iraq.
Kurdpress: Will U.S continue its supports to Syrian and Iraqi Kurds after ISIS is defeated? Will be a permanent American presence in Kurdish territories in Iraq and Syria?
I doubt that the U.S. will continue supporting the Kurds in Syria after ISIS, and perhaps Jabhat al-Nusra, are defeated. The Kurds in Iraq, however, have a more enduring relationship with Washington and can expect more American commitment towards them.
Kurdpress: Iraqi Kurds say that they will have an election this year, considering deep political tension between Kurdish parties in Kurdistan Region, how do you describe this?
A well run election and the strengthening of democratic institutions in Iraqi Kurdistan are both key to maintaining a stable Iraqi Kurdish region. They need to find ways to get the Kurdish house in order – to reactivate the parliament, to establish some red lines for especially the Gorran party but others as well, and to work together for the national interest.
Kurdpress: Nechirvan Barzani, Kurdistan Region PM recently said Iraqi Kurds will have a referendum this year and they want a peaceful divorce, what do you think about this?
An embargo of Bashur is the most likely outcome in the short-term. I don’t think this would last too long however, and I don’t think any of the neighboring countries are likely to take military action against Bashur. Before we know it, South Kurdistan’s independence would be an established fact (a fait accomplit) that is accepted by its neighbors and the world. This will be especially true if Erbil can compromise on some issues with Baghdad, allowing Abadi and other leaders there to save face a little during the divorce and hence accept it.
Kurdpress: Jamil Bayek, a PKK commander has asked Donald Trump to mediate in peace process in Turkey, do you believe he can help that? What do think about Kurd’s situation in turkey after presidential referendum?
Turkey has become a bit of a disaster. Its democracy appears finished after the referendum, and the United States is in no mood or position to really help the peace process there. Things will likely get a lot worse in Turkey before they get better.
Interview: Ashraf Binandeh
Reporter’s code: 50101