Washington, DC, USA (us.gov.krd). The issue of Kurdish independence and the ongoing military offensive in Mosul were major topics of discussion Thursday at a leading Washington university. The program started with a moment of silence in honor of fallen Peshmerga, Iraqi and US forces fighting to liberate Mosul.
The discussion, held at the Johns Hopkins University School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS), centered on a report by Amberin Zaman, a Public Policy Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The report, titled “From Tribe to Nation: Iraqi Kurdistan on the Cusp of Statehood”, looked at the hurdles the Iraqi Kurdish independence movement needs to face before independence is achievable. Ms. Zaman was joined in the discussion by the Kurdistan Regional Government Representative to the US, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, and Hardin Lang, a national security expert at the Center for American Progress. The panel was moderated by Dr. Sasha Toperich, a senior fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at SAIS, and former Presidential Envoy of Bosnia to the US.
The topic of Kurdish independence has been widely discussed over the past decade, and these discussions only increased after Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani announced plans for a referendum several months ago. Ms. Zaman’s report mentions several areas where the Kurdistan Region can improve, from economics to political to protection of minorities.
Ms. Zaman said, “Iraqi Kurdistan is closer to independence today than ever before, despite the war with ISIS and economic challenges.” She stated the greatest problem hindering independence is Kurdish disunity.
Rep. Abdul Rahman also provided an update on the ongoing Mosul operation. She said there is an unprecedented coordination between Peshmerga forces and Iraqi Security Forces. She also thanked the United States for providing air strikes, sharing intelligence and leading the humanitarian effort with the United Nations. Mr. Lang, who was in Kurdistan two weeks ago, said the KRG is “reaching saturation point in dealing with the humanitarian crisis.” Rep. Abdul Rahman also expressed grave concern and said the KRG cannot provide food and water for displaced people fleeing Mosul without the help of the international community. The audience included scholars, Middle Eastern experts, US officials, media and members of the Kurdish community.