Isa believes the decision by Kurdish President Massoud Barzani to freeze the results of last month’s independence referendum is a “cheap ploy” to buy more time in order to win over the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people as well as the Kurds.
He also opined that Barzani seeks to keep the result as a “bargaining chip” in order to obtain more concessions in future negotiations with the central government in Baghdad.
“He wants to use it as a leverage so when he goes into negotiations with the Iraqi government he can use blackmail to win more concessions and to use it as blackmail to the Iraqi people. He has become the master of blackmail over the years and I do believe at the end of the day he can use it to turn the tables and to undermine any deal by actually saying, look, this contradicts the expressed will of the Kurdish people who have gone and sought and voted for independence,” he said.
The analyst went on to say that Barzani has made “a grave historic strategic mistake” by going down the road of an independence referendum despite warnings from international and regional powers, adding that he has to take responsibility and pay the price for such “reckless” move.
The referendum on secession of the Kurdistan region was held on September 25 despite strong opposition from the central government in Baghdad, the international community, and Iraq's neighboring countries, especially Turkey and Iran.
Isa further stated the secession vote “has no legal basis”, highlighting the fact that the Kurdish people have now turned against it and are demanding that the person who has taken this “highly destabilizing decision” steps down.
Opposition parties in Kurdistan endorse the region’s drive for independence from Iraq but insist Barzani is responsible for the current political turmoil as he chose the wrong timing to hold the referendum.
The analyst also pointed out the fact that Barzani’s mandate as president has long been expired, arguing that he has absolutely no respect for law, order and democracy.
He further suggested that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi should carry out the direct diktats from the parliament and the federal court which are strongly pushing for the implementation of the Constitution and the upholding of law and order in the country.
Meanwhile, Ian Williams, the other panelist on the program, maintained that the issue of Barzani’s popularity is separate from Kurdistan’s independence.
He went on to say that evidence shows most of the Kurds want some considerable degree of autonomy. Whether or not they consider Barzani as the right person to supervise it is another story entirely, Williams noted.
The analyst also disagreed with the implementation of law and order by Baghdad in order to integrate the Kurds into the Iraqi federal state, arguing that such steps do not really work under the current circumstances because they are against popular will.
In response to Williams’ comments, Isa mentioned that the Kurds have played an “instrumental role” in writing the country’s Constitution given their “enormous clout” when Iraq was invaded in 2003, adding that the Constitution protects Kurdish interests.
However, Williams argued that the Kurds have many reasons to think that Iraq has not been good for them, reiterating that their desire for autonomy should not be underestimated.