3 - Catalonia and Kurdistan: Auto-determination versus National Constitution
Interview given by Dimitri Kitsikis to La Razόn, Madrid Spanish newspaper and not fully published because of the repression of the Catalonia referendum on Sunday, October 1, 2017. Part of the interview, excluding comments on Catalonia, was published on October 6, 2017.
Here are my answers to your questions.
(Thank you so much, they are not for today´s paper, so you have until tomorrow. We would need the answers by 10-11a.m. East Coast time. It that works for you, please confirm so we can count with your insight).
Here is the text of my interview:
Since the Wilsonian principle of self-determination was proclaimed in 1918, this principle played both sides: on the side of the nation-state and on the side of separatism. Once the nation-state is formed it struggles to prevent separation of part of its territory on the same principle of self determination. This principle cannot be denounced by a state constitution because the right of people self-determination is superior to any constitutional law.
The only way to prevent total secession is to propose an autonomous status to the separatists in the frame of a larger confederation which would later evolve into a federation. This is in principle the case of the European Union which evolves from a de Gaulle grand ensemble of nation-states to a Europe of regions, in which an already autonomous Scotland and an already autonomous Catalonia, becoming independent, would re-enter a larger confederation, the European Union Confederation .
The struggle on both sides is legitimate and above any constitutional law. Thus the nation-state has all rights to use force to prevent secession and the seceded autonomous province, based on the Wilsonian principle has all right to claim independence.
This is exactly the case of Kurdistan which is already an autonomous region of Iraq and claimed independence through its recent referendum. The particularity of an eventual future Kurdish state is that the Kurdish nation extends over four nation-states i.e. Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran, that is why it has been struggling for as long as a century to become independent without any success because each time it comes to the brink of independence the four nation-states stick together to prevent it.
An equivalent of the European Union is the project of certain Greeks and Turks, of forming a Greek-Turkish Confederation to re-constitute the Ottoman Empire (see Wikipedia’s article “Hellenoturkism”) where Kurds in particular, by uniting its four parts, would enter with Greece and Turkey as a nation-state into the newly formed confederation.
Evidently, such a solution would be in the interest of Turkey, but also of Greece, but would be staunchly opposed by the other three countries, Syria, Iraq and Iran.
Here, the role of the Great Powers is paramount. Evidently, Israel is in favor of secession of any part of Kurdistan. But the USA which tries to pull together a coalition against a future conflict with China could, with the help of Russia, reinforce the position of Turkey and Greece in the Aegean region by encouraging such a scheme, which would at the same time weaken the position of Iran and drug Tehran, possibly with a change of political regime on the side of the US coalition against China.
Now, lets answer your specific questions:
1 - Could we see eventually new frontiers in the Iraqi area?
No, because all surrounding states would oppose it.
2 - Do we see a new rise of nationalism in the area?
There is nothing new here. Nationalism has always been paramount in the region.
3 - Some hope that the US, which will not recognize the results, could convince Barzani to cancel the referendum implications in exchange of starting conversations with the Iraqi government. This was not accepted, and Bagdad refused conversations. What would be needed to sit both at a negotiation table?
Correct. The US is pushing Barzani to start conversations with the Iraqi and the Turkish governments. Erdoğan and president Turgut Özal before him have had a lot of friendly negotiations with Barzani and it is in the interest of Turkey, by participating in such conversations, to drug Iraqi Kurds on the side of Turkish interests, away from Iraqi interests.
4 - Barzani admitted that the referendum was not binding, but a tool to have leverage when negotiation with Bagdad. Is the referendum a true claim for complete independence, or is Barzani´s way of obtaining more autonomy in the regional government?
Correct. Barzani uses the referendum to gain better conditions of autonomy.
5 - Turkey worries that this referendum might ignite a separatist insurgency from its own Kurdish minority, Would the Kurds in Turkey have the means to have a referendum that was made in Iraq? If that fear by Turkey were to happen, would both Kurdish groups join forces?
Turkey has been struggling since the 1970s with Kurdish separatism in a prolonged and bitter war with the PKK. There is nothing to worry more than that. Kurds on both sides of the Turkish frontier have always collaborated. That is why the Kurdish question in Iraq is as much a Turkish question.
6 - Adding to the flight restrictions threatened by the Iraqi Government, Turkey threatens to impose economic sanctions on the Kurdish region in Iraq. The oil trade is crucial for the economy of this region. On the other hand, the Kurdish authorities claim they are self-sufficient in matters of power and fuel supply, plus they have land for agriculture. Would oil sanctions from Turkey, combined with the closing of airports by the Iraqi government stop the independence movement in Iraq, at least for a while?
The indepense movement in Irak is nothing new and will continue as in the past. Barzani by organizing the referendum has made a mistake because he will gain nothing by only isolating his region from all parts. Finally, a Kurdish solution can only come from great power policy, as Israel interference is not enough to ignite a change. Only if the US and Russia stand on the side of Turkey in this matter and drug an autonomous Greater Kurdistan on the side of a larger Greek-Turkish Confederation, as Erdoğan’s intention seems to be (he has even declared recently such an intention which infuriated his ally the nationalist party MHP) and at the same time stopping the PKK rebellion, a lasting solution could be found.
7 - We want to explain the situation to our readers as best as we can, so if there is anything you´d like to add that´s not been asked, fell free to add it.
See my comments at the beginning of this interview.
Dimitri Kitsikis 29 September 2017
El 28/09/2017 a las 20:29, Dimitri Kitsikis escribió:
You can send me your questions in a written form and I will try to answer them.
Geopolitics and International Relations
Professor Emeritus, University of Ottawa,
Fellow, Royal Society of Canada,
Honorary President, The Dimitri Kitsikis Public Foundation
From: Sección Internacional [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Thursday, September 28, 2017 8:48 PM
To: Dimitri Kitsikis
Good morning, professor,
We are contacting you from the Spanish newspaper La RAZÓN. We have some questions fro you about the political situation now in Kurdistan. Would you be available to answer a couple of questions today or tomorrow?
La Razón International