Despite strong opposition from neighboring countries and the rest of the international community, except Israel, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) held a plebiscite on the Kurdish nation’s right to independence on Sep. 25, 2017, that received an overwhelming majority vote for secession. However, weeks later, aggressive advances by Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), better known as the Hashd al-Shaabi, have resulted in the loss of all disputed territories gained by the Kurds, as well as the deaths and displacement of thousands more. In response, the KRG released a statement last week offering to freeze the referendum results for a complete cessation of hostilities and the start of negotiations with Baghdad to resolve an array of issues based on the Iraqi Constitution.
While it is respectable for the KRG leadership to show their desire for peace with Baghdad, making significant concessions like freezing the results of the referendum after the assault and occupation of Kirkuk and other disputed territories by Iraqi forces and the Iranian-backed Shia PMF is tantamount to the appeasement of Adolf Hitler by allies during the start of WWII.
The allies, at the time, also sought to avoid war, and so they appeased Hitler by handing over a major portion of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany in the Munich Pact of 1938 which only emboldened Hitler. It wasn’t until the invasion of Poland in 1939 that the allies had realized what a grave error appeasement had been. Ultimately, it did little to deter WWII and secure peace.
While the situation of the Kurds is not completely analogous, a similar mistake is being made by the KRG leadership by appeasing the central government in Baghdad despite its acts of aggression against the Kurdish nation that has yet to cease.
The Kurds, while acting nobly, are making a serious tactical error that their brethren did during the short-lived Kurdistan republic in Iranian Kurdistan (Rojhelat). Similar to obstacles the KRG faces today with its bid for independence, the President of the Republic, Qazi Mohammad, chose to hand himself over to the Pahlavi regime rather than resist the central government which was quite weak but had western backing.
The lack of resistance only appeased the central government and led to the unilateral dissolution of the Kurdistan Republic that feeds the dream of an independent Kurdistan to this day. Granted many may have died resisting, it would have been an honorable death that would have fueled the liberation movement and raised national consciousness to new heights.
By making such major concessions, the KRG is (in real politic terms) only emboldening Baghdad to intensify its aggression and proved right all those who doubt the Kurds can genuinely govern themselves independently. If the KRG seeks to gain (or regain) any of what it has lost, it must stand its ground and show Baghdad that aggression and threats will not be tolerated rather than offering everything up without any sign of willingness to negotiate on mutual terms peacefully.
Halmat Palani is an English teacher and political science graduate from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Kurdistan 24.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany