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Serious Concerns Over Iraqi Kurdistan’s Secession Plan
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Serious Concerns Over Iraqi Kurdistan’s Secession Plan

The upcoming independence vote in Iraq's Kurdistan Region has prompted concerns among Iranian observers who believe Kurdistan's secession could trigger a domino effect across the Middle East.
Speaking to Sputnik, Iranian experts shared their views regarding Tehran's response to the potential declaration of independence of Iraqi Kurdistan through a referendum.
Last month, President of the Kurdistan Regional Government Masoud Barzani announced that the referendum will take place on September 25.
"[Iran] has always resolutely supported the territorial integrity of Iraq and considers it a 'redline'. However, in recent years, there have been significant changes in foreign policy, particularly after [Mohammad] Javad Zarif's appointment as foreign minister. Although [Iran] signaled its support for the territorial integrity of Iraq, it has also announced that Tehran would uphold the agreement between Baghdad and the Kurds in diplomatic terms," Ardashir Pashang, a researcher at the Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies, told Sputnik.
Pashang stressed that one should take into account the fact that the Kurds and the central government of Iraq have yet to reach an agreement on many issues.
"Therefore, if we assume that the results of the referendum will [show] a majority of votes [for independence] and the establishment of an independent Kurdistan state, then Iran, diplomatically, will respect the results of the referendum," he said.
In addition, Pashang noted that Iraq is a hotbed of violence and instability, plunged into conflicts and crises.
"Therefore, the [independence] issue must be solved exclusively in a diplomatic manner. The declaration of independence of [Iraqi] Kurdistan is possible, but this could lead to further escalation of tension in Iraq, and even another civil war," he said.

  No Unified Kurdish Stance  
Hadi Afqahi, a former diplomat at the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, political analyst and expert on Middle East affairs, commented that the declaration of independence of Iraqi Kurdistan would not only lead to the fragmentation of Iraq, but also trigger a chain reaction resulting in the division of Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Jordan.
"The idea of creating an independent Kurdistan has been crystallizing for years. The Kurds have already gained a lot on this path: they have obtained autonomy in Iraq, their own parliament, leader [Masoud Barzani], prime minister," he told Sputnik.
Afqahi added that after the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group began gaining ground in the region, Barzani apparently decided to take advantage of the situation to declare complete separation from Iraq and create an independent Kurdistan.
According to the former diplomat, the secession will not do any good to Iraq and the region in general.
"Tehran's position is that it primarily favors the territorial integrity and unity of Iraq," he said.
"We [Iran] will never under any circumstances support separatism in any country: be it Iraq, Syria, Yemen or Lebanon."
Still, the analyst remains skeptical about the possibility of the Kurdistan Region's secession from Iraq.
"While communicating with the Kurds who were close to Masoud Barzani, I've learned that even they are against the complete separation and proclamation of a separate Kurdistan state," he said.
"They are convinced that this will lead not only to a complete blockade or isolation, but even to war. Iran opposes such a scenario, Turkey is also against it. Supporters of [former Iraqi president] Jalal Talabani are also against it. They [believe] that [the declaration of independence] 'will strangle themselves in their own prison'."
Afqahi maintained that even among the Kurds there is no agreement whether to secede from Iraq.
"Given the unified position of Turkey, Syria and Iran on this issue, it is unlikely that Masoud Barzani will be able to translate his dream into reality," he concluded.

 

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