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Iraqi Kurdistan Situation Careening toward Confrontation

Oct. 3, 2017 (EIRNS)—Iraqi Kurdistan appears to be heading toward confrontation not only with the Iraqi government in Baghdad, but also with neighboring countries Turkey and Iran, in the aftermath of the Sept. 25 referendum. The confrontation with Turkey is particularly sharp, since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had long had good relations with Masoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.). Turkish Foreign Minister Mehmet Cavusolgu told the official Anadolu News Agency, today, that the restoration of good relations between Turkey and the K.R.G. is possible if the K.R.G. corrects its "mistake," that is, the independence referendum. "This was neither a democratic nor a legal referendum. It is illegal [according] to Iraq’s constitution," he said.

"It is not too late yet. The [President Masoud] Barzani administration could take a step back. If the K.R.G. corrects its mistake, then we can continue with our relations just as we did before the referendum took place."

Four neighboring countries, Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iraq, all have substantial Kurdish minorities that neighbor each other.

Speculation has been abounding that the Turkish military may be sent into northern Iraq, fueled by the presence of Turkish tanks on the Turkish side of the border, in the area of the main crossing between the two countries. Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag, yesterday, dismissed these rumors as just that, speculation. "Turkey will act in reason, in coordination with its neighbors," Bozdag said, yesterday. He noted that Turkey has already taken measures in response to the K.R.G. referendum and will be taking more. "We will continue [to take measures] until the northern Iraqi regional government will step back," he said.

The Iranians have also moved military forces up to their border with Iraqi Kurdistan, close enough to be visible from the Iraqi side, in a blunt message not only to Iraqi Kurds, but also to Iranian Kurds. Both the Iranians and the Turks are coordinating their military movements with the government in Baghdad.

Inside Iraq, the Baghdad government has refused to back down from its rejection of the Kurdish referendum. The parliament’s finance committee issued a binding decision banning financial dealings with the Kurdistan region over the vote, yesterday. The parliament also sent a letter to the Federal Court asking it to take legal action against Kurdish MPs who supported the referendum. The letter, reports the Rudaw News Agency, calls for stripping those members of the Kurdish parliament of their immunity, and going as far as putting them on trial.