The Kurdish region's president, Masoud Barzani, and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi both threatened to use force ahead of Monday's vote
Children holding Kurdish flags run on the streets of the disputed city of Kirkuk, Monday Sept. 25, 2017. Iraq's Kurdish region vote in a referendum on whether to secede from Iraq. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen), photo: AP/Bram Janssen
25 of September 2017 18:06:27
IRBIL – Iraqi Kurds voted Monday in a landmark referendum on supporting independence, a move billed by the Kurdish leadership as an exercise in self-determination but viewed as a hostile act by Iraq's central government. Neighboring Turkey even threatened a military response.To Baghdad, the vote threatens a redrawing Iraq's borders, taking a sizeable part of the country's oil wealth with it. For Turkey and Iran, leaders feared the move would embolden their own Kurdish populations.The vote — likely to be a resounding "yes" when official results are revealed later this week — is not binding and will not immediately bring independence to the autonomous region. Nevertheless, it has raised tensions and fears of instability in Iraq and beyond.Just hours after polls closed Monday night across the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, the Defense Ministry announced the launch of "large-scale" joint military exercises with Turkey.Earlier in the day, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey threatened the Kurdish region with military intervention. Iran — which also opposed the vote — held military exercises along their border Sunday.
The Iraqi Kurdish push for independence has been made even more combustible because Kurdish forces captured extensive territory in fighting against the Islamic State group in the past year. Those areas run from northwestern Iraq to the Iranian border on the east — including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. Baghdad claims those territories, but the Kurds say they are part of their zone and some residents there are participating in the referendum.An escalation in rhetoric within Iraq set the stage for increased tensions as Iraqi Kurds lined up to vote.The Kurdish region's president, Masoud Barzani, and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi both threatened to use force ahead of Monday's vote.Barzani softened his tone before he voted. He told a news conference Sunday that he believed the vote would be peaceful but acknowledged the path to independence would be "risky.""We are ready to pay any price for our independence," he said.Al-Abadi had said on the eve of the referendum that the vote "threatens Iraq" and "is a danger to the region.""We will take measures to safeguard the nation's unity and protect all Iraqis," he warned in a televised address from Baghdad.
Kurds in Iran marching in support of today's KRG referendum on Kurdish independence - which Tehran strictly opposes. pic.twitter.com/RR0a4wuvM2— Tobias Schneider (@tobiaschneider) 25 de septiembre de 2017