By Javad Heirannia

Dividing Iraq into mini-states makes situation worse: John Limbert

September 24, 2017

TEHRAN - John Limbert, the former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Iran, says “Most Middle Eastern states have to find ways to exist as multi-ethnic and multi-religious entities.”

Limbert, also tells the Tehran Times that “Iran never had much trouble in that respect, but when Iraq claimed an exclusive "Arab" identity for itself it created trouble.”
He adds that dividing Iraq into “mini-states, however, is not going to solve anything. It is likely to make the situation worse.”
Following is the text of the interview:

Q: The Kurdish referendum is to be held on September 25 despite the opposition of Kurdish movements such as the Gorran Movement. How will the referendum influence Kurdish movements in the region?

A: The principle here is important.   Most Middle Eastern states have to find ways to exist as multi-ethnic and multi-religious entities.   Iran never had much trouble in that respect, but when Iraq claimed an exclusive "Arab" identity for itself it created trouble. The borders among Kurd, Arab, Turk, and Persian are never fixed.   Many places have mixed populations and there is frequent intermarriage. The same can be said for religious boundaries.

Q: Concerning objections by the central government in Baghdad and the Iraqi prime minister himself to the referendum, who described the referendum as “playing with fire”, is there a possibility of military conflict between Baghdad and Arbil after the independence referendum?

A: In Iraq, there is a heritage of mistreating non-Arabs and non-Sunnis.   Now Iraq has to deal with that heritage.   Dividing the country into mini-states, however, is not going to solve anything. It is likely to make the situation worse.

Q: How will Turkey react to the KRG referendum? Will it lead to a clash between Ankara and the KRG?

A: Of course the neighbors Turkey and Iran -- both with important Kurdish-speaking populations -- are not going to be happy.

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