What kind of relationship will Kurdistan Regional Government have with the new U.S. administration? Kurdish officials are currently in the “wait-and-see” phase, although the Kurdistan Region’s President Masoud Barzani recently said in an interview that he hopes for greater support.
It is essential that Kurdish politicians and Kurdistan’s representatives in United States don’t buy into naive narratives that this administration will favour Kurds because “we deserve their support” or “the time is right.” The new administration and its foreign policy does not seek to work or promote the interests of other countries or regional governments without direct benefit to themselves.
The newly sworn-in President of United States Donald Trump suggested that the cost of intervening in Iraq should have included taking the country’s petroleum reserves. This would, in effect, also have included Kurdistan Region’s oil reserves.
It’s noteworthy to point out that during President Trump’s presidential campaign, he consistently claimed that he was opposed to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which toppled the Baathist dictator Saddam Hussein. The Kurds have been largely in favour of the invasion of Iraq, which led to a stronger Kurdistan Region with greater autonomous powers.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has responded to President Trump’s comments, somewhat cautionary in fear of not angering Iraq’s key partner in anti-ISIS efforts. In an interview with Reuters, Abadi says “It wasn’t clear what he meant. Did he mean in 2003 or to prevent the terrorists from seizing Iraq’s oil? Iraq’s oil is constitutionally the property of the Iraqis.”
Here’s what the Kurdish people and entire Middle Eastern community need to understand. President Trump is all about “America first.” He has repeatedly said that he will put American interests before all others — in fact, during his inauguration speech, he said “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first.”
What does this mean when it comes to U.S. policy towards Kurdish people?
The Kurdish government and its politicians should be extremely careful with their handling of relations in United States. This new administration is unpredictable, and will not hesitate to dismantle or backdown on promises towards Kurdish people for the sake of putting their own interests first — remember, it’s “America first” from now on, principles and ethics aside.
The main advantage of Kurdish politicians, and in fact the Kurdistan Regional Government’s diplomatic relations, is that it simply seeks to work for itself. The Kurdish leadership have consistently stressed that they seek to have good relations with foreign countries, and have never involved themselves in the domestic issues of any country, apart from offering to act as counsellors in conflict-ridden instances.
In maintaining this approach, the Kurds must seek to strengthen regional relations as opposed to relying on Trump’s administration in hope of support towards a Kurdish state. It’s worthwhile to remember that the neighbours of a potential Kurdish state includes Iran, Turkey and Syria — three countries that have a host of complex problems, particularly in handling their significant Kurdish population.