Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani speaking to CNN.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region signaled Monday that the country’s Kurds are ready to seek independence, as Sunni insurgents gained greater ground and Iraq slid toward civil war.
“It is the time now for the Kurdistan people to determine their future, and the decision of the people is what we are going to uphold,” Massoud Barzani said in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, the strongest statements he has made regarding independence.
“During the last 10 years we did everything in our ability, we made every effort and we showed political stability in order to build a new democratic Iraq, but unfortunately the experience has not been successful they way that it should have,” he said.
“That’s why I believe that after the recent events in Iraq it has been proven that the Kurdish people should seize the opportunity now,” he pointed out.
Iraq’s northern Kurdistan Region, comprising the three Kurdish provinces of Erbil, Sulaimani and Duhok, has been autonomous for more than 20 years. It has an estimated population of five million, and its own government, parliament, constitution and army.
Independence has been a perennial Kurdish aspiration.
In less than a fortnight when they began their blitz, insurgents that include the radical Sunni Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have captured several key cities and are closing in on Baghdad, where they want to topple the Shiite-led government.
The rebel blitzkrieg began with the capture of Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, by the rebels. Its collapse started a dominoes-fall of cities and territory that has the rebels in control of Iraq’s vast central Sunni territories, from the Syrian border to Jordan.
Iraq’s army largely collapsed when the rebels began their onslaught on Mosul.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which has had serious issues with the Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, moved in its Peshmerga forces into Kurdish territories outside its official borders that were abandoned by Iraqi forces.
The Peshmerga have been in control of just about all of the Kurdish territories that they claim, including Kirkuk, the prize oil city that the Kurds see as the capital of their future state.