The following are excerpts from an interview with Mas'oud Al-Barazani, president of the Iraqi Kurdistan province, which aired on Al-Arabiya TV on April 6, 2007.
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The Kurdish Goal "Should Be Realized, But Without Resorting To Violence"
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "If we are talking about the Kurdish cause in general – as the cause of a nation – there is definitely still a long way ahead of us."
Interviewer: "So this will be completed only with the declaration of a state?"
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "This is the legitimate right of the Kurdish nation. This goal should be realized, but without resorting to violence. I do not support the use of violence."
Interviewer: "And what if others resort to violence?"
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "In this case, self-defense is a legitimate right. I encourage dialogue, establishing ties, and explaining the cause to others. I support this kind of democratic and peaceful struggle, not through violence, but if we are attacked, certainly..."
Interviewer: "You will fight?"
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "We will defend ourselves."
Interviewer: "After 15 or 17 years of stability, are the Kurds still capable of fighting, or have they lost this 'gift?'"
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "Brother, the Kurds have never chosen to fight. It was always imposed on them. The Kurds have never initiated the fighting. They were always on the defense. I believe the Kurds will continue to be ready to defend themselves. But do they think about attacking or renewing the fighting? This has never been, and never will be, the Kurds' nature."
"The Young [Kurdish] Men... Wearing European 'Effendi' Clothes Would Undoubtedly Turn Into Brave Fighters If Their Country Was Attacked"
Interviewer: "All the suits you see on the businessmen of the new generation... In all honesty, can they become, in an instant, if, God forbid, Kurdistan is attacked... Will they all turn into fighters and Peshmerga, remove their suits, and become fighters on the front?"
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "Many of the young men you see wearing European 'effendi' clothes would undoubtedly turn into brave fighters if their country was attacked."
Interviewer: "These young men would become fighters, regardless of who is attacking them?"
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "Absolutely."
Interviewer: "Are you convinced of this?"
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "I'm convinced that many of them would, I'm not saying they all would."
Interviewer: "But you are sure that if the Kurds were attacked, they would fight as they did in the past, and that we should not be misled by all that we see?"
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "Of course."
The Kurds "Are the Main Reason That Iraq Is United"
Interviewer: "You are saying that the true dream of a Kurdish state has not been realized, but every time I reach Kurdistan, what I see is an independent state. All that you are lacking is a declaration of a state. You have a parliament, a government, a president of the province – yourself. You have the Peshmerga, an army, a police. You have your own language, your own culture, your own nationality, and so on. It seems like a political maneuver on your part, to keep saying you are protecting Iraq, while in fact, what you have is an almost complete state. You have international airports... Is this a political maneuver – to refrain from declaring the state, in order to avoid throwing the neighbors into confusion and causing problems, while in fact, there is already a state?"
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "Brother, let me be clear. After the fall of the [Saddam] regime, we Kurds protected the unity of Iraq. To this day, we are the main reason that Iraq is united."
Interviewer: "But Iraq is not united."
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "At least formally. We devoted our greatest efforts to expand the Kurdistan experience to the other regions of Iraq, but the brothers in the other regions, I'm sad to say, did not benefit from our experience. We adopted a culture of forgiveness, whereas they adopted a culture of vindictiveness."
"Some Sunnis oppose Iranian interference, but seek the help of Turkey, and call upon the Turkish army to intervene. I believe these people are playing with fire. There are Sunnis who oppose Iran, but accept Turkey. What is the difference? Our problem is that the Shiites are fearful because they suffer from a complex of the past, while the Sunnis are fearful because they suffer from a complex of the future."
Interviewer: "And what are the Kurds afraid of?"
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "Of everything."
Interviewer: "What is the greatest fear of the Kurds today?"
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "That the dictatorship will return to Iraq."
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Interviewer: "How can it possibly return?"
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "Allah willing, it won't. We won't let it return, but you asked about the Kurds' greatest fear. It is the return of the dictatorship."
"We Will Not Let the Turks Intervene in the Issue of Kirkuk"
Interviewer: "Don't the Kurds fear Turkey?"
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "No."
Interviewer: "How come? If Kirkuk is annexed to you, the Turks will not be at all happy. They are constantly declaring that they will not let the Kurds annex Kirkuk."
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "For our part, we say that we will not let the Turks intervene in the issue of Kirkuk."
Interviewer: "How do you intend to prevent them?"
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "How do they intend to prevent us?"
Interviewer: "They constitute a military force. They have a huge army."
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "I am not afraid of their military power. No matter how strong it may be, it cannot compare to that of Saddam."
Interviewer: "But they also have great diplomatic power."
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "I am not afraid of their military or diplomatic power, because they are interfering in matters that do not concern them, in the domestic affairs of another country. Kirkuk is an Iraqi city with a Kurdish identity. All the historical and geographic facts prove that Kirkuk is part of Iraqi Kurdistan, which is itself part of Iraq. Therefore, Kirkuk is an Iraqi city with a Kurdish identity, and Turkey has no right to interfere in this matter. If Turkey allows itself to interfere in the matter of Kirkuk, we will do the same with regard to Dyarbakir and other cities in Turkey."
Interviewer: "Is that a threat?"
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "Not a threat, but an answer to the question what will happen if Turkey interferes. What right does Turkey have to interfere in the matter of Kirkuk?"
Interviewer: "Because of the Turkmen in the city."
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "There are 30 million Kurds in Turkey."
Interviewer: "You don't interfere when it comes to the Kurds?"
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "We don't, but if they allow themselves to interfere in the issue of Kirkuk because of a few thousand Turkmen, we will intervene for the sake of the 30 million Kurds in Turkey."
Interviewer: "Do you think it will come to that?"
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "I hope not, but if the Turks insist upon interfering in the issue of Kirkuk, I am ready to bear the consequences, and I will not allow them to implement their plan in Kirkuk."
"If We Are Destined To Live Without Stability And Freedom, By Allah, We Will Not Allow The Others To Live In Safety And Stability"
Interviewer: "Abu Masrour, the self-confidence I always see in you – do you draw it from your alliance with the Americans?"
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "I draw confidence from my faith in Allah and in the justice of the cause, and from the support of the Iraqi people in its entirety, because this constitutes interference in the affairs of Iraq."
Interviewer: "But the Kurds have always been the victims of international agreements. What if the Americans form an alliance with Turkey, renounce the Kurds, and allow Turkey to undermine your stability and dreams?"
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "The Kurdish cause is past this stage, and beyond these conspiracies. If we are destined to live without stability and freedom, by Allah, we will not allow the others to live in safety and stability."
Interviewer: "I hope it won't come to that."
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "I also hope it won't. I oppose it, of course. But we are prepared to defend our freedom and our cause to the bitter end."
"The Kurdish People Were Never Given The Choice Between Independence Or Belonging To This Or That Country"
Interviewer: "You are surrounded by three nationalities – the Arabs, the Persians, and the Turks. If the Americans withdraw, if the Republicans lose the presidential elections, and the Democrats want to withdraw the American forces, how will you be able to continue, while you are surrounded by these three nationalities?"
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "We would choose death over bowing down to anyone. That is our decision."
Interviewer: "Whatever the price?"
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "Yes. We will not allow any of those countries to control our fate.
"The countries that split Kurdistan... Of course, the Kurdish people were never given the choice between independence or belonging to this or that country. This division was imposed upon it against its will. These countries, which split Kurdistan, made alliances, conspired, and cooperated against the Kurdish cause. They all tried to engage in a policy of Turkization, Persization, or Arabization, and failed to attain these goals. If the policy of denying the existence and rights of the Kurdish people was a successful policy, it would have been accomplished in the last hundred years. The fact that the Kurdish cause still arouses these countries' fears proves that this cause is still alive, and that the policies of the past have failed. Therefore, new solutions must be sought – democratic solutions through peaceful methods. I say again that it is the legitimate and legal right of the Kurdish nation to be independent and to have a state, but I am against resorting to violence to achieve this goal."
Interviewer: "So you are calling upon the Kurds of Turkey not to resort to violence?"
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "Not the Kurds of Turkey, nor of Iran, Syria, or Iraq – unless it is imposed on us. If fighting is imposed upon us, that's another matter."
"The Kurdish Issue [Must] Be Resolved In Each Region According To Its Characteristics"
Interviewer: "So how will the Kurds of Turkey realize their dream of having their own state?"
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "In my opinion, the optimal solution today is for the Kurdish issue to be resolved in each region according to its characteristics."
Interviewer: "But don't you feel that the Turks today are afraid of this spark? They fear that if the Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan realize their dream, it will be impossible to prevent the Kurds in Turkey, Iran, or Syria from realizing the same dream."
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "Why do they oppose this dream? Why do they oppose this aspiration? If they oppose this aspiration, they will definitely face opposition. There is no doubt that if the Kurds see that a certain country opposes or denies them their aspirations - this will not continue forever. The situation will explode."
Interviewer: It is said that your relations with the Israelis are excellent, but that these are behind-the-scenes relations. Surely you have heard and read in the newspapers that there is coordination, and that meetings are held, and that the Mossad is present in Kurdistan. We are constantly hearing that there are relations, which have become close, with the Israelis.
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "If it wasn't you asking, I wouldn't answer this question."
Interviewer: "I’m only quoting. It’s not me who is asking this."
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "I wouldn't answer this question, because it is degrading. First, the constitution does not give us the right to maintain ties with any country. Diplomatic relations are the exclusive authority of the federal state. If an Israeli embassy was opened in Baghdad, we would no doubt open an Israeli consulate in Irbil."
Interviewer: "In other words, there are no..."
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "If diplomatic relations are not established between the Iraqi and Israeli states, there will be no relations between the Kurdistan province and Israel. But in fact, as I have said in the past, I do not consider relations with Israel to be a crime or something forbidden. Most Arab countries maintain relations with Israel, and if we establish relations, we will do so publicly. There is no reason for these relations to be kept secret, because we are neither afraid nor ashamed of such relations."
"I Support The Rights Of The Palestinian People, But... I Am Against Driving Israel Into The Sea"
Interviewer: "Do you support peace with Israel – a peace agreement, and an end to this conflict?"
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "I support a peaceful solution to the Palestinian issue. I support the rights of the Palestinian people, but at the same time, I am against driving Israel into the sea."
Interviewer: "So you don’t support the plan to destroy the state of Israel?"
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "Of course not."
Interviewer: "Some groups among the Palestinians and among the Lebanese, like Hizbullah, are still calling, in their ideology, for the destruction of Israel."
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "This is impossible."
Interviewer: "Are you against it merely because it's impossible, or because you don't want to?"
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "No, in my opinion, this policy is wrong, illogical, and unreasonable. Why annihilate a people?"
Interviewer: "Because many consider it to be a plundering, occupying people. I believe this statement will reverberate and draw much criticism, Abu Masrour."
Mas'oud Al-Barazani: "I do not believe in annihilating the Israeli people. But by no means do I support denying the Palestinian people its rights, or any Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people."