Iraq: Kurdistan to vote on independence

Authorities in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region have announced that the northern territory will hold a referendum on independence, with a date of Sept. 25 set for the vote. Masoud Barzani, president of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), announced the decision on Twitter June 7. The referendum on secession from Iraq will be held in the three governorates that officially make up the Kurdish region (Erbil, Sulaymaniyah and Dohuk) and in the areas disputed by the KRG and Baghdad but currently under Kurdish military control—most notably the potential flashpoint of oil-rich Kirkuk. (Al Jazeera, June 8) (See map)

The decision was taken after a meeting of 15 of the KRG's political parties in Erbil, although the two biggest predominated—Barzani's KDP and the PUK. The two largest opposition parties, Gorran (Movement for Change) and the Kurdistan Islamic Group, refused to attend the meeting. (Al Monitor, June 9)

The announcement drew an immediate harsh response from Baghdad. "No party can on its own decide the fate of Iraq, in isolation from the other parties," said government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi. "Iraq is constitutionally a democratic, federal country with full sovereignty… Any measure from any side in Iraq should be based on the constitution.'"

Turkey also strongly rejected the move. "We have enough problems in our region. We believe it is not correct to create a new area of conflict," said Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. "We believe this is a decision that has been made irresponsibly." (MEE, June 9)

Iran likewise voiced its opposition. "The Kurdistan region is part of the Iraqi republic and unilateral decisions outside the national and legal framework…can only lead to new problems," said foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi. (RFE/RL, June 10)