On Sept. 25, Kurdistan will hold a referendum for independence. For a number of reasons, the United States should welcome this development and support the referendum.
For starters, an independent Kurdistan is a good opportunity to advance women’s rights, minority rights and democracy in the Middle East region. In Iraqi Kurdistan, there is no difference between the genders and the various religious and ethnic groups. Everyone is equal under the law.
Iraqi Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani has given all of the religious minorities the right to have a representative in the Cabinet. Eleven chairs in the Kurdish Parliament are reserved for minorities. In addition, Iraqi Kurdistan has a Religious Affairs Ministry, but each faith has its own department. This enables all of the religious minority groups in Iraqi Kurdistan to advance their own interests. Secondly, under Mr. Barzani, 25 percent of the Parliament must be female, and Kurdish law makes it easier for women to get elected to public office. Also, the female Peshmergas who have been fighting against ISIS have captured the hearts of the international community with their brave stance in favor of gender equality. An independent Kurdistan will be a beacon for democracy in the Middle East very much like the state of Israel.
Another reason why the United States should support an independent Kurdistan is that it will help to roll back the Shia Crescent. It is critical to note that the United States does not need to place boots on the grounds in order to confront Iranian aggression in the Middle East. Since a good portion of the population in the Islamic Republic of Iran consists of minorities like the Azeris, Balochis, Kurds and Ahwazi Arabs, these groups can merely conduct an uprising and enable the Iranian regime to collapse from within as the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds unite in order to form their own independent state, which is ready to be an American base in the Middle East and to be of utmost assistance in America’s struggle against international terrorism. Such a strategy can shrink Iran in half and significantly reduce Iranian hegemonic influence in the Middle East without putting the life of a single American soldier in jeopardy.
While it is true that Turkey might remain opposed to Kurdish independence, it can be argued that an independent Kurdish state headed by Mr. Barzani that is created with the vow not to seek Turkish territory poses less of a threat to Turkey than ISIS on its border does.
In addition, Mr. Barzani has developed a positive business relationship with Turkey. In fact, as a sign that relations between the two were improving, Turkey even recognized Kurdistan as a region and waved the Kurdish flag during Mr. Barzani’s visit. Through trade and oil deals, Mr. Barzani made previous enemies into business partners.