ERBIL — A special seminar, titled "The Way Forward for Kurdistan", was organized on Wednesday for former US Lieutenant General Jay Garner at the University of Kurdistan (UKH) in Erbil.
The former US general highlighted his experience in the Kurdistan Region in early 1990s and in Iraq in 2003. He stressed that it is important for the people of Kurdistan Region, particularly the youths, to remember the fact that what has been achieved in Kurdistan in terms of politics, freedom, economy, and reconstruction in the past 30 years, is an amazing and important achievement for the region, noting that no other nation in the world has been able to make such progress while going through such difficulties.
The Kurdish leaders, especially President Masoud Barzani, and late secretary-general of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Jalal Talabani, played a key role in achieving these achievements.
Garner added that when he first met Barzani he was a Peshmerga in the mountains to continue his father's struggling for Kurdish freedom and independence. The Kurdistan Region has made great progress over the past 30 years and it is quite different from other parts of Iraq, it is considered "another Iraq", he said.
Therefore, he stressed, the new generation should understand that previous generations worked hard to ensure today's progress of the Kurdistan Region.
One of the factors in Kurdistan Region's continued progress is that the Kurdish people are smart, patient, and consistent in success, seeking peaceful coexistence and democracy, and this is an important and positive point for the United States and the world, Garner said.
He further noted that the Kurdistan Region today has "smart" leaders like President Nechirvan Barzani and Prime Minister Masrour Barzani. It also has oil and gas, with the recent developments, the Kurdistan Region has better opportunities in this regard.
Concerning the Kurdish civil war in the 1990s, the former US general said that Barzani and Talabani were able to end the war, but unfortunately there is still disputes between Erbil and Sulaimaniya, stressing that the Kurds should unite and authorities in Sulaimaniya, in the absence of Talabani, are responsible for the Kurds to remain divided. If the Kurds were united, Kurdistan could be much more prosperous and the Kurds could play a decisive role in resolving the political issues in Baghdad, the American general emphasized.
Regarding the dream of independence and the referendum held by the Kurdistan Region in 2017, Garner said the Kurds have the right to have an independent country but that they should first unite, and take more steps forward in terms of economy, reconstruction, democracy, and culture, and build good relations with Baghdad.
He further reminded that the United States made three mistakes in Iraq, explaining that Washington should have removed only the key leaders of the former Baath regime and not the whole people working in the country. Secondly, the US should not have dissolved the former Iraqi army as it made more troubles for the country. Moreover, the US should have guaranteed the centralization of federalism in Iraq, and it should have known Iraq much better before taking any actions. He revealed that in 2003 he favored Iraq to be divided into three regions, with the federal government in Baghdad to be centralized.
In regards to some other mistakes the US made in Iraq, Syria, and the region, he said Washington should not have allowed pro-Iran Hashd al-Shaabi to attack Kirkuk and other areas in 2017 when the Kurdistan Region held a referendum for independence. Subsequently, the United States in Syria should have shown more support for the Kurds, and unfortunately it did not which made the country lose some of its partners, Garner said.