- Veteran president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Massoud Barzani vowed a referendum for an independent Kurdistan was expected to be held before October.
Barzani told London based media portal Al-Monitor that he is "determined to lead his people to full-blown independence" after the popular referendum.
As response to the Al-Monitor reporter who underscored Barzani's emphasis on a referendum and about independence "more loudly" and the skepticism on so-called "economic and political problems" Barzani said "What other way do we have?".
"Do you really believe that I would instrumentalize such a critical issue, one that concerns the fate of millions of people, after all the suffering they have endured, all the sacrifices they made, just to advance my own political future?" Barzani said.
"Let us look at our relations with Baghdad. There are roughly two periods. The first was from 1922 to 2003. During that time, 2,500 of our villages were destroyed; 182,000 people perished; 12,000 Kurds remain unaccounted for; 8,000 members of my own family, the Barzanis, were killed; 5,000 people were gassed to death in Halabja. There's the balance sheet of that first period" he added.
"It was clearly said in the constitution that committing to its principles was the key to Iraq's unity. But the Iraqi prime minister, with a single stroke of a pen, put an end to this. The [central] government froze the Kurds' share of the budget and failed to uphold its commitments to us on numerous critical fronts. So now we are faced with two options. This first is that we abjure all our rights — that we give up on federalism and become just another province in Iraq" Barzani said.
The KRG leader urged that the question to be asked to people in the referandum were not drafted and the procedure were not finalzied so far.
Regarding the "clamp down" on corruption, Barzani vowed fight with corruption was an "existential issue" for the KRG and they had the same dedication as fighting the Islamic State (IS) in the region.
"Nobody is excluded. And I will come to the court. [Nephew] Nechirvan [Barzani, the prime minister] must come to the court. Masrour [Massoud Barzani's son] must come to the court if there is something on him. First, we must start within my family, then start with the KDP [Kurdistan Democratic Party], and then start with the other political parties" he said.
"But if you don't do your job, then I will bypass you and fight corruption myself, but later don't blame me that I bypass laws in Kurdistan, because this is very important for us in Kurdistan to fight corruption and to fight those people who exploited their government position for oil contracts, sales of agricultural land and things like that. Whoever will be responsible from the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Peshmerga, prime minister, any minister, any leader of the party, any security official — they all must be held responsible for what they have done" Barzani urged.