Former Prime Minister of the Iraqi Kurdistan regional government, Barham Salih, called for the formation of a transitional government in the province that would be “able to overcome problems resulting from the independence referendum and earn the trust of the Kurdish citizens,” as well as hold dialogue with Baghdad.
Salih added that imposing a fait accompli was not useful, “but the good administration of these areas, the fight against corruption and the revival of the economy were the main factors that would lead to a permanent solution based on the Constitution.”
Asked about his opinion of the deteriorating relations between Baghdad and Irbil and whether holding the referendum was a wrong decision, Salih replied: “The decision to hold the vote was adopted by the political leadership, which openly declared responsibility for this measure.”
He noted that the Kurdish leadership has insisted on this decision despite “regional and international rejection, and in the absence of a clear internal understanding among the Kurds and sufficient dialogue with Baghdad.”
Salih went on to say: “The system of corruption and nepotism that dominated the government in the province was one of the main reasons that led to confusion in the decision process.”
On the other hand, the Kurdish politician noted that systemic failures in Iraq could not be ignored.
“These unresolved problems, from the issue of disputed areas to partnership in decision-making, etc., cannot be ignored and are among the reasons for the current problems,” he stated.
He underlined the need for an internal Kurdish solution that begins with unifying ranks and holding an open dialogue with Baghdad.
“This requires an agreement between the main forces, by eradicating partisan sensitivities, prioritizing national interests over all other concerns and avoiding futile debates… It is necessary to correct the mistakes that have led to the referendum,” he noted.
Salih said that he believed the Kurdish dialogue with Baghdad should not be limited to the Kurdish situation, nor should it only discuss power sharing.
“This time, dialogue must be about establishing a successful country, with just governance in both Baghdad and the Kurdistan region,” the Kurdish official explained, stressing the importance of economic integration between Iraq’s various regions and the need to “break the barriers left by doubts and speeches of hatred.”
“There is no choice but to hold dialogue in Baghdad through an independent Iraqi process supported by the international community and neighboring countries, in order to develop a solution based on the Constitution and aimed at addressing accumulated problems in a radical manner, not recycling and postponing them until they explode in later stages,” Salih said.
Asked whether Iran was seeking to find a path through Iraq’s Kurdistan into Syria, the former PM replied: “Iran is a neighboring country; this is a fact that cannot be changed either by Iran or by Iraq. Deep cultural and economic ties bind Iran and Iraq, and on this basis, it is impossible to understand the success or failure of any strategy away from these considerations.”
He went on to say: “Iraq has real interests in the establishment of joint cooperation systems in the region. They should not be based on sectarian, racial or political grounds, but on common political and economic interests and the integration of the regional market.”
“Middle Eastern countries need each other, and this need will grow in the future, so they have to extend the routes of mutual economic integration,” he added.
“Instead of talking about a corridor for fighters and militants, we should focus on free trade areas, joint investments and infrastructure projects for economic integration”, he stressed.