Interview with head of Washington Kurdish Institute Najm-al-din Karim

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Sign the petition for Iraq's three-region solution January 10, 2008 Interview with head of Washington Kurdish Institute Najm-al-din Karim

Kurdishaspect.com - By Sirwan Rashid Translated by Dr Kamal Mirawdeli

Translated from Rozhnama, Sulaymnaiyah, daily newspaper in Kurdish, 25 Dec 07, p 5

[Rozhnama]  Some politicians believe that relations between a small people such as Kurds and a superpower like the US is a kind of adventure especially in the sensitive region we are in. What do you think?

[Najmaddin Karim]  My approach to this issue is this: what other alternatives do the Kurds have? Look at a small people like Israel who are much less numerous than Kurds. Apart from the US they do not have friends. But they have not lost as a result of this friendship. We have past experiences. We made friends with the Palestinians. We were more Palestinians than Palestinians. Sometimes we were close ‘friends’ with the Islamic Republic of Iran and did everything for them. With the Shah of Iran we did everything. With the Ba’th regime and different governments of Iraq we often had contacts and negotiations. But from all these we did not achieve anything. We the Kurds still have not reached a result that we can say with certainty that the Kurds would never again face other Anfals and tragedies. We have also a bad experience with the Americans. But we can feel the concrete results of our present close relationship with the US. Without the US where would the Kurds be from 1991 till the present? Without the US the Kurds would not have reached the present position from 2003 onwards.

[Rozhnama]  Some political analysts believe our love for the American project is without conditions. Do you think that such a political marriage is a healthy one?

[Najm-al-din Karim]  I believe our relations with America are essential. For example, look at the recent events with Turkey. Without American pressure we may have suffered a great damage. I believe we should not become a tool in the hands of the Americans and do what they wish. But at the same time we can maintain our relations with them and have our own views on important matters that affect the future of our people.

[Rozhnama]  Don’t you think there is still possibility that the US would again betray the Kurds?

[Najm-al-din Karim]  This possibility always exists. That is why we need to strengthen ourselves internally, we have unity of purpose and make our people trust their administration both in economical and in defense terms.

[Rozhnama]  Then how do you see the future of relations between the Kurds and the US?

[Najm-al-din Karim]  I am optimistic about these relations. But we need to improve our own performance and have a clear strategy. For this we need the support of other parts of Kurdistan in order to develop a healthy, strong and sustainable relation with the US. We must avoid problems with others especially Turkey. I believe if we establish our relations with the US on correctly, this will be useful for the other parts of Kurdistan too.

[Rozhnama]  How does the White House view these relations?

[Najm-al-din Karim] The White House knows the importance of having the Kurds on their side and need for their help to make their policy in Iraq successful. I notice that there is some progress on some aspects. On other aspects we see that the progress we wish has not been achieved because the interests of the US in Iraq do not necessarily conform to our interests. That is why we need to develop some sort of consensus in the way we work with them in which the interests of both parties are supported. But at the same time we must not abandon the main aims of our people but try to develop them.

[Rozhnama]  How do you see the political process in Kurdistan especially after the strategic accord between Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)?

[Najm-al-din Karim]  The strategic accord between KDP and PUK is not bad. But it should not be at the expense of democracy in Kurdistan. The doors should be open to all people to participate in the political process in Kurdistan whether as individuals or as groups.

[Rozhnama]  Some [smaller] political parties and political experts think that this strategic accord aims mainly to narrow the scope of democracy and monopolize the administration of the lives of people?

[Najm-al-din Karim]  I am not in Kurdistan therefore I do not have knowledge about the experience. As I said the agreement in itself is not bad. If there is strategic agreement on the issue of Kirkuk and the border of Kurdistan, on the issue of peshmarga and destiny-making issues for the Kurdish people, this is good. But this must not be at the experience of political freedoms in Kurdistan whether for political parties or ordinary people.

[Rozhnama]  Are there any indicators that this agreement does nit result in restricting political freedoms, something you said should not happen?

[Najm-al-din Karim]  No. But there is concern. I have felt this concern by other [smaller] parties. But KDP and PUK must demonstrate that this agreement is not at their expense, does not aim to smother them.

[Rozhnama]  There is now the issue of alternating the post of the Prime Minister of Kurdistan region. PUK will have the right to select the new PM and they are discussing this issue now. There is a rumour that you might be asked to take this post. 

[Najm-al-din Karim]  There is an [established] agreement between PUK and KDP for the alteration of the post of the PM and the Speaker of Parliament after two years. In fact the current cabinet has been working only for 18 months and it took six months to appoint the ministers. They appointed more than 40 ministers. For this agreement between KDP and PUK, the ball is now in the court of KDP. Their political bureau need to convene and say whether they wish their PM to stay on or whether they wish to change him according to the agreement and then PUK select his own PM. This is something that is the task of KDP and there is nothing more that I can say on this issue.

[Rozhnama]  You say the ball is in the court of KDP. But according to the PUK/KDP agreement, PUK is entitled now to take the post of PM. As it is said you are a technocrat and have been asked to take this post? Is this true?

[Najm-al-din Karim]  My answer is this: As far as I know PUK has not yet met to discuss and decide this issue, whether first they want to change the PM, and second to select a person for this post.

[Rozhnama]  If PUK asks you to take this post, will you accept the offer?

[Najm-al-din Karim]  I believe that everyone who wants to offer a service to his people and then a door is opened for him to provide this service must think about it very seriously and if he thinks has ability to do the job should do it. He must not hesitate in serving his people. If the political leadership of Kurdistan asks me to offer a service to my people, it would be a great honour to me and I will accept it whether it is the post of a minister or Prime Minister or an adviser. I will accept any post for the sake of my people.

[Rozhnama]  Then it is true that PUK has talked to you about offering the post t you?

[Najm-al-din Karim]  PUK political bureau needs to meet to decide first whether they want to change the present PM and second who will they decide to offer the post to. This has not been decided yet.

[Rozhnama]  Does your return to Kurdistan from the US relate to this matter?

[Najm-al-din Karim]  No. I return to Kurdistan once every year. You know this issue can be sorted out by telephone calls too.

[Rozhnama]  Some time ago you published the report of a study about Kirkuk. What was the aim of this publication in this specific time?

[Najm-al-din Karim]  The Washington Kurdish Institute has worked from its very beginning for the issue of Kirkuk and other areas and has explained the significance of this issue to American people. With the approach of the end of 2007 and the time allocated for the implementation of Article 140 we found it necessary to publish the report widely to the American public opinion. More than 1000 people receive the reports that are published by our Institute and this includes decision-makers within the US administration. All the members of the US receive our reports to make them understand that the issue of Kirkuk and that the non-implementation of Article 140 would endanger the stability that exists in Kurdistan region now and the relative stability that exists in Kirkuk. This will have repercussions for the whole situation in Iraq because [Kurdish] people no longer can endure the current conditions they have endured for the last four years. People of Kirkuk, Khanaqin, Sinjar, and other areas had been oppressed by the Bath regime for decades. They thought this would change with the change of the regime. But unfortunately their conditions have yet to improve.

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