Financial Tribune- A high-ranking Iranian military official slammed the planned referendum on the Iraqi Kurdistan’s secession, saying it would lead to “war and long-running insecurity” in the region.
Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, a top military aide to Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, said, “Unfortunately, there is a new crisis brewing in the region. The foes of Muslims are harboring the secession of Iraq and Syria, something that would lead to war and long-running insecurity,” ISNA reported.
The Kurdistan Region’s political parties, excluding Gorran Movement and the Kurdistan Islamic Group, came to an agreement on June 7 to hold a referendum on the region’s independence from Baghdad on September 25.
“The four countries of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey are against this move because it would result in creation of separate regions that would be dependent on extraterritorial powers and foes of Islam,” the top military aide said.
Safavi pointed to the presence of terrorists in Iraq and Syria, warning that the secession would be detrimental to the people of the region.
Iraqi Kurdistan is a landlocked region heavily dependent on its neighbors.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in June strongly criticized the referendum plan, calling it “an error” and “a threat” to Iraq’s territorial integrity.
Last month, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu cautioned that the referendum can aggravate the situation, saying that “it could even bring Iraq to civil war”.
In June, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi described as untimely the decision by Masoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, to hold the referendum.
“We have a constitution that we’ve voted on; we have a federal parliament and a federal government … The referendum at this time is not opportune,” Abadi said at the time.
In his meeting with Erdogan in mid-August, Chief of the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri said Tehran and Ankara are opposed to the move, saying that it would lead to tensions and conflicts in Iraq.
“Both sides stressed that if the referendum is held, it will be the basis for the start of a series of tensions and conflicts inside Iraq, the consequences of which will affect neighboring countries,” Baqeri was quoted as saying by IRNA.
In Iraqi Kurdistan, activists for a campaign called “No For Now” have said they have already received death threats and have been physically intimidated since publicly declaring their opposition to independence.
Shaswar Abdulwahid, the founder of the “No For Now” campaign in Iraqi Kurdistan, said his stance has won him many enemies.
“The threats are still there and constant,” he told Middle East Eye. “Me and my friends at the ‘No For Now’ campaign are facing threats every day. One of our campaign board members was kidnapped in Sulaymaniyah. Security forces raided the house of another member. The KRG has used the legal system as well to shut down NRT TV, a news station he founded.”
Kirkuk, estimated to have 4% of the world’s oil revenues, which is home to Iraqi Arabs, Turkmen, Christians and Kurds, announced in late October that the province will participate in Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence vote, even though it is not part of the Kurdistan region.
The move sparked tensions between Kirkuk’s different ethnic leaders and angered the authorities in Baghdad and Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Abadi rejected the decision, while his spokesman, Saad Al Hadithi, called the decision “illegal and unconstitutional”.
“Provinces that don’t belong to the autonomous region of Kurdistan can’t impose decisions without the federal government’s approval, and Kirkuk is one of these regions,” he said.
The decision is expected to have dangerous implications not only for the future of Kirkuk, but also for Iraq as a whole.
Safavi called on the Kurdish people to heed the warnings, asking them to pool their efforts to foil “the plots of the enemies”.