Iraqi Kurds face growing isolation after referendum

Iraqi Kurds face growing isolation after referendum

Iraqi Kurds face growing isolation after referendum

Hundreds of passengers waited to board flights out of the Kurdish region at Irbil International Airport yesterday after Baghdad threatened to ban flights following an independence referendum held by Iraq's Kurds earlier this week.

Official preliminary results revealed that 93 percent of voters backed Kurdish independence, although the vote was widely criticized by the global community. Kurds make up a large minority in several Middle Eastern countries, including Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran.

After Saddam Hussein took power in Iraq in 1979, he began persecuting the Kurds, leading later to a systematic attempted genocide, using chemical weapons, resulting in the deaths of more than 100,000 Kurds in Northern Iraq.

The Kurdistan militias of the Peshmerga took control of the region in 2014, after the Iraqi army fled ISIS fighters advancing towards the city.

Ankara has threatened a series of measures including blocking crucial oil exports from the region via Turkey. Therefore, if Turkey considers independence a threat to its national security, it will not hesitate to send troops into Kurdistan, triggering probably numbness and little effective reaction from Baghdad. The armed forces did not take necessary steps in Silopi for no reason.

Nearly 93 per cent of Iraqi Kurds who took part in the referendum voted for independence and a formal split from Baghdad to form an autonomous Kurdish region. They presented a series of conditions (considered unacceptable by Baghdad) insisting on a future Kurdish independent state.

If Kurdistan successfully reaches an agreement with Baghdad before declaring independence, like South Sudan did in 2011, it will probably be recognized by nearly all the world's countries. Kurdistan's Ministry of Trade and Industry estimates business exchanges with Turkey and Iran exceed $10 billion per year. Kurdistan imports 95% of its agriculture needs from Turkey and Iran and depends on Turkey to export its oil. "Publishing this meme amounts to a declaration of war against the Kurdistan Region". But the decision is also no doubt motivated by protection of Kirkuk's multiple oil and gas fields, which Baghdad has now ordered the KRG to hand over, including all other oil facilities throughout northern Iraq.

Turkey had also said on Thursday that it agreed to deal only with Baghdad on oil exports from the Kurdish region.

Prices were also helped by a weekly inventory report from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) yesterday which showed a drawdown of 1.8m barrels against expectations of a 3.4m barrel build.

If Kurdistan pursues unilateral independence, it risks becoming a short-lived, one-party state, not a new democracy at peace.

Al-Sistani warned that such "unilateral steps" toward dividing Iraq will lead to internal and external reactions that will have consequences on our "dear Kurdish citizens and could have more risky repercussion". I hope they have seized this historic opportunity for self-determination.

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