First joint Forum UoS-SPU Universities Saulaimani

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Ahmed Tabaqchali MSc

Keynote speeches


Born 1958 in Istanbul, Turkey. 1984, B.Sc. Mathematics, Univ. Canterbury, & 1985, B.Sc. (Hons, 1st class), Mathematics, Univ. Victoria, both New Zealand. 1991, M. Sc. Mathematics, Oxford University, UK. Adjunct Assistant Professor AUIS, Fellow at IRIS. Experienced Capital Markets professional with over 25 years experiences in US and MENA markets. Focus current research: Iraq’s economy, economic sustainability post ISIS and on the economic roots behind the rise of extremism.

Summary Ahmed Tabaqchali: The economic future of the Kurds

The future options, politically and economically, for the Kurds are now discussed within the context of the September 25th referendum and its aftermath. For the most part these are variations of the doom and gloom scenario after the losses of Kirkuk and the disputed territories - in particular the loss of the Kirkuk related fields, i.e. Bai Hassan, the Avanah & Baba Domes of the Kirkuk supergiant field, Jambur and Khabaz with their combined 330,000-350,000 bbl/d of oil production or over 50% of the KRI’s oil production at the time. These losses are thought to have ended a decade’s quest to develop the financial means of securing political independence from Iraq.

While, these arguments have a degree of merit if one accepts the widely held view that political or formal independence is still equivalent to the concept of the right of self-determination. However, it is my belief that, a paradigm shift is needed in the understanding of self-determination as given by Article 1 in both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) which states: "All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development." In that “self-determination” and the “free pursuit of economic, social and cultural development” are no longer consistent, or possible, within the narrow confines of the traditional thinking of political independence or sovereignty in the modern economically inter-connected and inter-dependent world.

This is particularly evident in the case of the UK’s BREXIT process. The UK is discovering that seeking traditional sovereignty by breaking up from European Union (EU) is an illusion. In that to ensure the economic well-being of the UK, it has to adhere to the EU’s rules while outside the EU, but without having a voice in shaping these rules if it was still in the EU. So, by achieving narrow sovereignty through BREXIT, the UK effectively loses a wider sovereignty.

I argued in my recent research paper for IRIS (1) “Statehood in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq through an Economic Lens” that the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) “did not have the economic capacity to become an independent state” by analyzing the region’s  “Oil assets and exports, the creation of a central bank and currency, trade, debt and a balanced budget are all essential features of a future independent Kurdish state, without which no amount of political will, nationalistic messaging or international support could lead to a viable, let alone successful, secession from Iraq.”

I believe that the aftermath of the September 25th referendum, instead of narrowing the options of the Kurds, has freed them from pursuing an outdated quest for formal independence, and to seek an achievable goal of securing the rights of the Kurds “to freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development” and ensure that the peoples of Iraqi Kurdistan enjoy economic prosperity in their homeland.

The paradigm shift in seeking self-determination and the pursuit of economic, social and cultural development for the Kurds is the same that I argued for in my IRIS paper, that “the very same economic realities that would prohibit political independence become economic advantages within a federal Iraq. These advantages would amplify the KRI’s economic prosperity as a gateway to the rest of Iraq benefiting from the economic boost as an access to a much larger market.” Provided that the Kurds take a full active role in the development of federal Iraq in much the same way that they did in the writing of the 2005 constitution. This would be along the same lines followed by the UK in the past: by integrating with Europe in taking an active part in the evolution of the EU, and in the process magnifying its economic prosperity as a gateway to the rest of Europe.

(1) (Disclaimer: personal view expressed for information only)

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