In a congressional atmosphere where bipartisanship is hard to find, Republicans and Democrats are coming together to support an independent Kurdistan, as the executive branch struggles to define its position on the issue.
On the Republican side, Tea Party leader Trent Franks of Arizona introduced legislation this week expressing that “the people of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq have the right to determine their status as a sovereign country.”
In supporting Kurdish independence, Rep. Franks called the Kurdish people a “historically proven ally against tyranny and terror, including against Saddam Hussein’s regime, and terror groups such as al Qaeda.”
This week, two House Republicans — Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, and Rep. Ralph Lee Abraham, R-La. — co-sponsored the bill. “The Kurdish fighting force, the Peshmerga, have been effective in the fight against the radical Islamic terrorists that comprise the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS),” Rep. King said in announcing support for an independent Kurdistan. “The Kurds are a proud, independent people who have long been persecuted and who have earned the right to form an independent state. They would be a long-term ally of the United States.”
Another Republican Congressman, Rep. Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin, has affirmed his personal backing for Kurdish independence. “The Kurds have been a staunch American ally in a region sadly lacking in allies,” Grothman said during a radio segment earlier this week, claiming that “there’s overwhelming support in Congress” for an independent Kurdistan.
Some Democratic congressional heavyweights have come to side with their colleagues across the aisle.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., released a statement this week in favor of Kurdish independence. “I believe the Kurds should have an independent state as soon as possible and that the position of the United States government should be to support a political process that addresses the aspirations of the Kurds for an independent state,” Schumer said.
Rep. Eliot Engel, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement this week that he “firmly” believes in “the Kurdish right to self-determination.”
While support for Kurdish independence continues to gain steam in the halls of Congress, the White House continues to support the status quo that was supported by past administrations. President Trump has remained completely silent on the matter. Major players in the administration thwarting Kurdish ambitions toward independence include Rex Tillerson’s State Department and Brett McGurk, the Obama-appointed, Tehran-friendly special envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS.
Congress is coming to understand that the Baghdad-centric policy for Iraq has failed, leading to a shell state that has been completely consumed and dominated by the Iranian regime’s influence. An independent Kurdistan, on the other hand, could serve as a beacon to further U.S. interests in the Middle East and would almost certainly continue its role as a vital partner for regional counter-terrorism efforts.