Published: Sat, June 10, 2017
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

US discourages Iraq Kurdistan independence vote

US discourages Iraq Kurdistan independence vote

The decision was made at a meeting attended by Kurdish leader Massud Barzani and representatives of the region's political parties.

The Iraqi Constitution recognized Kurdistan as an autonomous region in 2005, after decades of political and military efforts.

Iranian-backed Iraqi militias have threatened to expel the Kurds by force from the Kirkuk region and other disputed areas.

Often described as the world's largest stateless people after being denied their own country in the wake of World War I, Kurds are spread between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

"A yes vote is inevitable but will not result in an immediate declaration of independence", Bilal Wahab, a Kurdish expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, wrote in analysis in May.

Iraqi Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani speaks during news conference with Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), in Baghdad, Iraq, September 29, 2016.

In recent years, Kurdish forces have played a vital role alongside US forces in the battle against Islamic State and are now squeezing the organization out of its stronghold in Mosul.

There is also the issue of regional opposition: Turkey, Syria and Iran also have substantial Kurdish populations, and these countries could oppose Iraqi Kurdish independence out of fear that it would inspire similar moves at home.

The Kurds have their own armed force, the Peshmerga, which in 2014 prevented ISIS from capturing Kirkuk after the Iraqi army fled in the face of the militants.

Opposition in Baghdad to Iraqi Kurdistan becoming independent would become even greater if the region tried to take disputed territory along with it. The Kirkuk region will be included in the referendum, a government official told Reuters.

The referendum on whether to secede from Iraq will be held in the three governorates that make up the Kurdish region and in the areas that are disputed by the Kurdish and Iraqi governments but are now under Kurdish military control.

Importantly, Gorran (Change), the second largest party in the Kurdistan parliament, and the Islamic Group of Kurdistan, did not participate in the meeting calling an independence vote, which comes as the parliament has been shuttered since 2015 over political infighting. "We are legally capable of holding the referendum without consulting Baghdad", the KRG official said. At the moment, the Kurdistan Regional Government gets a share in Iraqi budget spending in exchange for a solid part of the oil it produces.

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