KURDISTAN REGIONAL Government President Masoud Barzani gestures during a news conference in Erbil, Iraq, in April. .
(photo credit: AZAD LASHKARI / REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former No. 2 in Likud, former interior minister Gideon Sa’ar, called for Israel and the United States Sunday to play key roles in advancing Kurdish independence.
Iraq’s Kurds set a September 25 date for a referendum on independence over the weekend.
They said the referendum would take place despite warnings internationally that a vote in favor of secession could trigger conflict with Baghdad at a time when the fight against Islamic State is not yet won.
The Kurds have played a major role in the eight-monthold US-backed campaign to defeat Sunni insurgents in the Nineveh province around their de facto capital Mosul. Baghdad’s Shi’ite-led government has rejected any move by the mostly Sunni Kurds to press unilaterally for independence, insisting that any decision about the future of the country should involve all its other parts.
Sa’ar met two months ago in Israel with adviser to Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani. A former member of the security cabinet, he wrote extensively about regional issues, including the Kurds, at the Institute for National Security Studies during his time-out from politics that ended in April.
He estimated that the referendum would pass and said the world’s reaction would determine whether a state of Kurdistan would be formed.
Sa’ar told The Jerusalem Post that although the Kurds already rule northern Iraq, their goal is independence de jure.
“Israel should recognize Kurdistan and try to persuade the US to welcome a state for the Kurds as well,” Sa’ar said.
“We Jews, like the Kurds, are a minority in the Middle East.
They have proven themselves over decades to be a reliable strategic partner for us.”
Sa’ar said he believed Barzani was taking this step because he believes it can succeed with the US led by President Donald Trump.Reuters contributed to this report.