Baghdad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Massoud Barzani, president of Iraqi Kurdistan, yesterday launched plans to hold a referendum for the independence of the oil-rich region.
In a closed-door meeting of the Kurdish parliament, later broadcast on TV, Barzani said: "The time has come for us to determine our own fate, and we must not wait for others to determine it for us".
The United States, the great allies of the Kurds against Saddam Hussein, are urging the government of the North to join Baghdad and face the challenge of radical Sunni ISIS (creators of the Islamic Caliphate) who have occupied many parts of north and west Iraq and threaten the capital.
In recent weeks, in the chaos caused by the ISIS invasion, the Kurds have taken over the city of Kirkuk and other disputed areas. However, the referendum, which crowns a dream of independence nurtured by the Kurds since the end of the First World War, is likely to weaken the government offensive against Sunni insurgents. Even the UN representative in Baghdad Nicolai Mladenov, insists on the necessity of a unified government: "If Iraq does not follow its own constitutional policy, what is the alternative? ... There is a risk of the country slipping into a similar chaos to Syria".
Meanwhile, the United States is putting pressure on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, to open spaces for collaboration with all the Iraqi forces, creating a government of national unity. So far, the Maliki government had penalized the Sunni component, accused of having collaborated with Saddam Hussein.
The danger of an invasion of Baghdad has pushed al-Maliki to grant amnesty to the officers of the Saddam Hussein regime in exchange for a commitment to the fight against the rebels of the Islamic Caliphate.
For several days now, following a series of incredible rebel victories, the Iraqi army has been fighting in the north and south, slowing their advance towards the capital. So far, however, only Awja, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein, has been recaptured. Minefields are seriously hampering the reconquest of Tikrit.
Saudi Arabia, which up until now had been one of the staunchest funders of the rebel Islamic caliphate, now fears their entry into the country and has deployed at least 30 thousand soldiers at its border with Iraq.