Tensions Rise in Iraq Ahead of Kurdish Secession Vote

Tensions Rise in Iraq Ahead of Kurdish Secession VoteTensions Rise in Iraq Ahead of Kurdish Secession Vote

Hundreds demonstrated in eastern Iraq against a planned referendum on the secession of northern Iraq’s Kurdish region, which neighboring countries and western powers fear could break up the country and stir regional ethnic and sectarian conflict.

Protestors, who gathered outside the Baquba city council on Sunday, waved banners denouncing the September 25 vote and called on local authorities to ban the polls, Al Jazeera reported.

“We are taking to the streets to express our rejection of this secession referendum,” Salim Saleh, a protestor, said.

The non-binding referendum will see Iraqis in areas under the control of the Kurdish Regional Government - and in a handful of territories disputed between Erbil and Baghdad - vote whether to secede from Iraq.

Along with Baghdad, Turkey, the US, Iran and the UN have all spoken out against the poll, saying it will only distract from the ongoing fight against the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group and further destabilize the region.

On Saturday, four Iraqi Kurdish soldiers were killed in an explosion in the province of Kirkuk, an area where the referendum is set to be held, Iraqi police said.

Seven other Kurdish Peshmerga troops were injured in the blast that hit their patrol car, 250 kilometers north of the capital Baghdad, police added.

So far, there has been no claim of responsibility.

Neighboring Turkey is holding army exercises on the border to underline its concerns that Iraqi Kurdish separatism could feed insurrection on its soil.

But Hoshyar Zebari, a senior advisor to Barzani, told Reuters news agency: “This is the last five meters of the final sprint and we will be standing our ground”.

Many Kurds see the vote, though non-binding, as a historic opportunity to achieve self-determination a century after Britain and France divided the Middle East under the Sykes-Picot agreement.

The Sykes–Picot Agreement, officially known as the Asia Minor Agreement, was a secret 1916 agreement between the United Kingdom and France, to which the Russian empire assented.

The agreement allocated to Britain control of areas roughly comprising the coastal strip between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan, Jordan, southern Iraq, and an additional small area that included the ports of Haifa and Acre, to allow access to the Mediterranean. France got control of southeastern Turkey, northern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Russia was to get Istanbul, the Turkish Straits and Armenia. The controlling powers were left free to determine state boundaries within their areas.


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