Barzani told the BBC “I have said it before, and I will say it again, I don’t regret it.”
“I don’t regret the vote of 3 million people, and the referendum was successful,” Barzani said, noting that 93 percent of the people had voted yes.
In the interview published on Friday, BBC correspondent Shaimaa Khalil, repeatedly pressed the Kurdish leader whether the vote had been a mistake, and he repeatedly answered that it had not been.
Khalil suggested the Kurdish people have “suffered” since the vote, but Barzani responded that the real cause of Kurdish difficulties was Baghdad’s cutting the Kurdish budget in 2014, as well as the costs of fighting the Islamic State (IS) and supporting some 2 million refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
The referendum was “not a crime,” he affirmed, adding, “a nation just expressed their wishes for the future in a peaceful and democratic way.”
“Those who said it was not a good time for the referendum never had an alternative date or time,” Barzani noted.
Explaining the loss of Kirkuk, he said it had been “the result of a betrayal that happened among the Kurds themselves,” even as he declined to identify those responsible, saying only that “the people of Kurdistan know.”
“Our view is that the referendum was not against the Iraqi constitution,” Barzani said.
He also explained that the decision to hold the referendum was a collective Kurdish decision.
“It was not the decision of one party or group of parties, but of all the parties and the parliament, and of the Kurdish people.”
Throughout the interview, Barzani refrained from criticizing the US.
However, others have not been as restrained.
The renowned French philosopher and filmmaker, Bernard Henri-Levy, speaking in Washington DC earlier this week, attributed to the US a considerable share of the responsibility for Baghdad’s assault on Kirkuk and other disputed areas.
Washington’s strong, public opposition to the referendum contributed significantly to the attack, in his view, as he described the US stance as a mistake of massive proportion, which history would judge harshly.
Paul Davis, a former Pentagon analyst of Kurdish affairs, retired from US Army intelligence, agreed as he told Kurdistan 24 that the fundamental mistake was not that of the Kurds.
Rather, a serious US error was behind “the whole thing.”
“US diplomacy failed to protect our Kurdish allies,” Davis said.
“There was never going to be a ‘good time’ for the referendum.”
With an eye to the long struggle of the Kurdish people and of his own personal struggle, Barzani also suggested, what happened is just temporary.
“We have a belief that our people will pass this situation quickly.”
Asked whether this latest setback would cause the Kurds to abandon their hopes for independence, whether in Iraq or elsewhere in the region, Barzani replied, “Never.”
“We have a just cause, and we will never, ever give up on it.”
Virtually, the whole interview dealt with the Kurdish situation in Iraq, but it began with a question about Afrin.
Barzani condemned the Turkish assault and explained that sending Peshmerga “will not solve” the problem. “The greatest assistance we can offer is trying our best to stop the offensive,” he added.
The interview ended on a cordial note, as Khalil asked what would be next for the former Kurdish President, “once a Peshmerga, always a Peshmerga,” she suggested.
“I’ve been a Peshmerga and will continue to be a Peshmerga,” Barzani replied.
Editing by Nadia Riva
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