Al-Monitor: What do you think of the deepening military and perhaps political ties between the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units [the armed wing of the PYD] and the Americans?
Barzani: Any support to the PYD means support for the PKK.
Al-Monitor: Do you believe the PYD and the PKK are the same?
Barzani: They are exactly one and the same thing.
Al-Monitor: Do the Americans believe that?
Barzani: They know very well, but they don't want to say they know very well. … You know the top priority for us and the Americans is the fight against [IS], so they might turn a blind eye.
Al-Monitor: So let's talk about the fight against [IS]. Do you believe that Mosul has to be taken care of before independence?
Barzani: There is no relation between Mosul and the independence of Kurdistan.
Al-Monitor: No? You can be independent and still have [IS] in Mosul?
Barzani: Why not?
Al-Monitor: Dangerous neighbors.
Barzani: The Kurds are used to living in a tough neighborhood.
Al-Monitor: Why do you believe now is the right time to pursue independence?
Barzani: I have always believed in this. When someone asks us “Why now?” I ask them “Why not now?”
Al-Monitor: Because it hasn't worked with Baghdad?
Barzani: It failed.
Al-Monitor: How do you figure out the borders of your state, and how do you get the central government to agree? What do you do about Kirkuk?
Barzani: Article 140 of the constitution, which was never implemented by the central government, calls for a referendum on the disputed areas, in Kirkuk and in Sinjar. If the people say they want to be part of Kurdistan, their voices must be heard and respected. If they decide not to be part of Kurdistan, we will hear their voices and respect their voices.