Former US Diplomat: Efforts to Derail Kurdish Referendum Won't Work

There has been uncertainty about whether the vote will go ahead on Monday as Iraq's key allies the United States and Iran, as well as powerful neighbour Turkey, have stepped up their opposition.

The UN Security Council has warned the referendum could potentially be destabilising. US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the price would be high "for all Iraqis, including Kurds".

"Nothing is definitive yet".

Canikli said the vote demonstrated "an abdication of reason" and Turkey viewed any referendum like this as "null and void".

After their meeting, the council issued a statement saying the referendum is a threat to Turkey's national security.

On the Iranian front, a commander of its elite Revolutionary Guards, Major General Qassem Soleimani, held talks with Barzani in Arbil.

"We are open to holding serious dialogue [with Baghdad] after the poll, but now it's too late to postpone the referendum", he added.

The country has the largest Kurdish population in the region and is already battling a Kurdish insurgency.

Speaking on Friday, September 22, before around 30,000 supporters, the leader of the Iraqi Kurds called the referendum the "common cause" of the people of Kurdistan and not his personal initiative.

Zebari said delaying the vote for negotiations with Baghdad without also securing guarantees that it could then be held on a binding basis would amount to "political suicide for the Kurdish leadership and the Kurdish dream of independence".

Wages, including those of Kurdish peshmerga fighters, were slashed after those transfers ended. Barzani has overstayed his presidential term since it ended in 2015, at which time parliament was suspended, and has been accused of corruption and oppressing opponents. The town and the governorate are disputed between Baghdad and the northern Kurdish autonomous region.

Across Iraqi Kurdistan, a scene is starting to become familiar: young and old alike fill the public squares and parks clad in Kurdish dress, furiously waving Kurdish flags in a rallying cry for independence.

Earlier this week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Ankara will consider imposing sanctions on Kurdistan over the referendum, and the United States has urged Kurdish leaders to call off the vote, fearing it it could fuel regional unrest and distract attention from campaigns to rout Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Jwan Mohammed, a Kurdish politician in the northern city of Qamishli, said the vote is taking place amid very tight security for fear of attacks by the Islamic State.

Baghdad this week launched offensives to oust IS from the last two pockets it controls in Iraq.

Plans to retake the town of Hawija there have been complicated by political wrangling among Iraq's disparate security forces.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi staged a full-court press to stave off the vote, which is expected to deliver a "yes" in support of Kurdish independence. All Iraqis must have a say in defining the future of their homeland. The Kurds have long accused Baghdad of withholding budget payments to the region, while Baghdad has opposed oil deals made by the Kurds without its consent.

"(Our fathers and mothers) think it's a betrayal not to vote "yes", said Muhammed, a researcher from Sulaimaniyah who is in his 30s.


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