Kurdish Separation Bids Could Escalate Mideast Tensions

Kurdish Separation Bids Could Escalate Mideast TensionsKurdish Separation Bids Could Escalate Mideast Tensions

Iran has deep misgivings about moves toward independence by Iraqi and Syrian Kurds, a lawmaker said, for they could aggravate the situation in a chaotic Middle East plagued with a flurry of terrorist activities.

Jalil Rahimi, a member of Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, made the statement in an interview with ICANA on Tuesday.

Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq announced early June they are going to hold a referendum on separation of the region from Iraq on Sept. 25.

The referendum is announced to be held not only in the three governorates that make up the Kurdish region, but also in the areas disputed by the Kurds and Iraqi government that are currently under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Iraqi Kurds gained de facto autonomy in 1991, following their uprising against the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein concurrent with the Persian Gulf war when Saddam invaded Kuwait in Aug. 1990 and the subsequent establishment of a northern Iraqi No-Fly Zone by the US and its allies.

After the overthrow of Saddam's regime by the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Kurdish self-rule became part of the Iraqi Constitution.

Speculations are rife that Kurds in the conflict-ridden Syria are also eying the Iraqi model to declare an autonomous region in territory taken from the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, an umbrella group of fighters mainly composed of Kurds backed by the US, control large swathes of the country and are currently battling to take Raqqa, which until a while ago was the de facto capital of IS in Syria. KRG's decision to hold the referendum has met opposition from regional states, including Iran and Turkey, as well as others such as Russia, Germany and the US.


  Threat to Turkish Integrity    

Rahimi said in the event the Kurdish attempts succeed, apart from doing irreversible harm to Iraq and to a lesser extent Syria, the separations would create a real risk of a sequel threatening the territorial integrity of Turkey.

"A total of 15 to 17 million Kurds live in [Turkish] provinces neighboring Iraq and Syria, the influence of the separation of Kurds [from the two countries] on whom can bring unpleasant consequences for Turkey," he said.

"I believe the approach taken by [Turkish President] Recep Tayyip Erdogan toward the war in Syria has intensified Kurdish struggles for independence."

Turkey is the main supplier of arms and logistics to militants fighting for over six years to clamp down on Syrian Kurds and bring down the Syrian government, a struggle that has left hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced.

Erdogan spoke out in strong terms against the referendum plan on Monday.

"The importance of Iraq's territorial integrity is increasing by the day," Erdogan told an oil conference in Istanbul. "They should refrain from unilateral steps, such as an independence referendum."

KRG President Masoud Barzani told Reuters last Thursday there could be no turning back on the bid for an independent Kurdistan, but he would pursue it through dialogue with Baghdad and regional powers to avoid conflict. Barzani arrived in the European Union's capital Brussels on Monday to seek support for the planned referendum in meetings with EU lawmakers and some Belgian officials, Iraq's Kurdish news agency Rudaw reported.


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