Southern Kurdistan: Are We Neglecting Our Sovereignty?

By Ramiar Bilbas:

In the aftermath of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) between the European powers, through the Treaty of Westphalia it was multilaterally contracted that no state would be allowed to intervene in the internal affairs of another. This is regarded as one of the most important elements of that treaty. When it comes to the sovereignty of states, including of territory, sea, and air, the Treaty of Westphalia provides a standard. It served to caution any state considering violating the treaty, that they would be condemned by the other treaty participants. Today let’s not forget the existence of international law and the United Nations as the generator of the international law, and accordingly never permit any violations of the sovereignty of one state by another.

Southern Kurdistan (Iraqi Kurdistan) is an autonomous region possessing its own legal government, parliament, and president. Although, and regrettably, it has yet to secede from Iraq and declare its independence and so our dependence on Iraq does not grant us formal power to exercise our sovereignty, this does not mean that the KRG should do nothing to challenge outside interference. Indeed, why isn’t Iraq asserting its sovereignty rights against any power violating the sovereignty of not only Kurdistan but also Iraq? The reality is that, in the wake of the American invasion in 2003, regional and neighboring states have regarded Iraq as a country they can intervene in at will. Iraq’s sovereignty has been frequently violated by the USA, Iran, Turkey and some other regional countries. So what logical objection can be offered to my argument that, if Iraq is unable to preserve its own sovereignty, how can it be trusted to preserve the recognition and sovereignty of a Kurdish regional government for a totally different people who, for more than three years, have been deprived of their own budget by the Iraqi central government?

Turkish warplanes

The Iraqi government is weak and has often proven this against the radical terrorist groups that have arisen time and again since 2003. Consequently, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) must fulfill its responsibilities in preserving its own sovereignty and international recognition. My concern is that the KRG appears to be silent about the regional interventions in the Kurdistan region. Iran and Turkey, for instance, have often bombarded the borders to such an extent that there have been deaths of civilians living in the villages affected by airstrikes, not to mention the displacement and impoverishment of villagers whose homes have been destroyed. Recently, Turkey’s minister of interior declared that Turkish forces would be in Sinjar in the spring to fight the PKK guerrillas, regardless of the existence there of a Kurdish government and following the murder of thousands of Yezidi civilians at the hands of ISIS terrorists in 2014 when they invaded the city. Furthermore, the presence of the PKK in Sinjar is an internal issue which must be resolved by the KRG, not fought over by a foreign country that doesn’t hesitate to violate the sovereignty and recognition of the KRG.

Finally, the Kurdistan region is dreaming of and moving towards becoming a state. The KRG should therefore now demonstrate the basics and characteristics of a state before it becomes a real one. Failing to respond to violations of our borders by Iran and Turkey will not help consolidate the foundations of our state and of the foreign policy of our future country.

Ramiar Bilbas is a master student majoring in international politics living in Milan, Italy

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