On September 5, 2017, The Kurds voted to work towards having their territory of Kurdistan, be declared an independent state. The Kurds in Iraq have been a formidable partner with the US military in fighting back ISIS in various Iraqi strongholds and have been striving for their this designation since after WWI. The Kurds represent the largest minority population of about 30 million peoples who do not have a homeland to call their own.
The US is not supporting the Kurds’ independence mostly because of strong resistance from Turkey. The Turks despise the Kurds so intensely, that officials have openly admitted that they would prefer to live with ISIS in their backyard than have anything to do with the Kurds.
The Kurds did vote for their independence on September 25, 2017. Here’s the rest of the story…
On September 25, 2017, Maher Chmaytelli and Michael Georgy of Reuters penned the following report, “Turnout high as Iraqi Kurds defy threats to hold independence vote.”
Kurds voted in large numbers in an independence referendum in northern Iraq on Monday, ignoring pressure from Baghdad, threats from Turkey and Iran, and international warnings that the vote may ignite yet more regional conflict.
The vote organized by Kurdish authorities is expected to deliver a comfortable “yes” for independence, but is not binding. However, it is designed to give Masoud Barzani, who heads the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), a mandate to negotiate the secession of the oil-producing region.
“Turnout was 76 percent an hour before voting closed, the Kurdish Rudaw TV station said.”
“For Iraqi Kurds – the largest ethnic group left stateless when the Ottoman empire collapsed a century ago – the referendum offers a historic opportunity. despite intense international pressure to call it off.”
“At Sheikh Amir village, near the Peshmerga front lines west of Erbil, long lines of Kurdish fighters waited to vote at a former school. Most emerged smiling, holding up ink-marked fingers.”
“In the ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk, Kurds sang and danced as they flocked to polling stations.”
“The Kurds also say the vote acknowledges their contribution in confronting Islamic State after it overwhelmed the Iraqi army in 2014 and seized control of a third of Iraq.”
“But with 30 million ethnic Kurds scattered over international borders across the region, Tehran and Ankara fear the spread of separatism to their own Kurdish populations.”
“President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey could cut off the pipeline that carries oil from northern Iraq to the outside world, piling more pressure on the Kurds.”
On September 26, 2017, David Zucchino of the Washington Post penned the following report, “Iraq Orders Kurdistan to Surrender Its Airports.”
Iraq’s prime minister, angered by a vote on independence by his nation’s Kurdish minority, has given the country’s Kurdish region until Friday 9/29/17 to surrender control of its two international airports or face a shutdown of international flights.
Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq had antagonized Iraq, Turkey and Iran by holding the referendum on Monday (9/25/17). The results have not yet been announced, but the Kurdish Regional Government said on Tuesday that the vote had gone overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Iraq.
A “yes” vote would not lead to an immediate declaration of independence for the semi-autonomous region, but it would direct the regional government to begin the process of creating an independent state, including negotiating a separation with Baghdad.
Iraqi officials have called the referendum unconstitutional and have refused to negotiate with the Kurdish leadership. The Iraqis fear losing a third of the country and a major source of oiL.”
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Tuesday (9/26/17) that his government had decided to demand control of the airports because the referendum had “destabilized” the region. He said humanitarian and other “urgent” flights would be exempt.
“There was no immediate response by leaders of the Kurdistan Regional Government. In an address in Erbil on Tuesday night, Massoud Barzani, the region’s president, referred to Mr. Abadi’s ultimatum.”
“We ask the Baghdad government not to threaten the Kurds because of the referendum,” he said. He urged the Iraqi government to enter negotiations and to respect what he said was the will of the Kurdish people to seek a nation of their own.”
“He added that the referendum had been approved by a wide margin. The Kurdish authorities are expected to announce the vote results on Wednesday (9/27/17).”
“Turkey and Iran fear that a move toward independence by the Iraqi Kurds will inflame separatist fervor among their countries’ Kurdish minorities. Videos on social media showed Kurds in at least two Iranian cities celebrating the Iraqi Kurds’ vote.”
“The US also opposed the vote, worried that it could set off ethnic conflict, break up Iraq and undermine the American-led coalition against the Islamic State.”
“Both Turkey and Iran have threatened sanctions against the Kurdish region, including the closing of border crossings. Turkish and Iraqi troops are conducting military exercises on Iraq’s northern border near Kurdistan, and Iranian forces are carrying out similar maneuvers on Iraq’s eastern border.”
Brief Background (Source: September 2014, New Yorker article by Dexter Filkins, “The Fight of Their Lives.”(The White House wants the Kurds to help save Iraq from isis. The Kurds may be more interested in breaking away.)
“Since 2003, when the U.S. destroyed the Iraqi state and began spending billions of dollars trying to rebuild a new state, the Kurds have been their most steadfast ally. When American forces departed, in 2011, not a single U.S. soldier had lost his life in Kurdish territory.”
“As the rest of Iraq imploded, only the Kurdish region realized the dream that President George W. Bush had set forth when he ordered the attack: it is pro-Western, largely democratic, largely secular, and economically prosperous. President Obama recently told the Times that the Kurdish government is “functional the way we would like to see. Still, the Administration, bound to a policy it calls One Iraq, is quietly working to thwart the Kurds’ aspirations.”
“The incursion of ISIS presents the Kurds with both opportunity and risk. In June 2014, the ISIS army swept out of the Syrian desert and into Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. As the Islamist forces took control, Iraqi Army soldiers fled, setting off a military collapse through the region.”
“The Kurds, taking advantage of the chaos, seized huge tracts of territory that had been claimed by both Kurdistan and the government in Baghdad. With the newly acquired land, the political climate for independence seemed promising. The region was also finding new economic strength; vast reserves of oil have been discovered there in the past decade. In July, President Barzani asked the Kurdish parliament to begin preparations for a vote on self-rule. “The time has come to decide our fate, and we should not wait for other people to decide it for us,” Barzani said.”
As of 2/1/15: The Kurds have been defending Kobani from ISIS control since mid September, 2014. Even though the U.S. military was almost too late to assist the Kurds, they had become heavily involved in this region.
As per the 2/1/15 NY Times report, ” Liberated Kobani, Kurds Take Pride Despite the Devastation,” by Tim Arango, the Kurds have succeeded in defending their land from Islamic State forces. Here are some excerpts:““The battle for Kobani, a border outpost that abuts Turkey, began in September (2014). Almost by accident, the city, of little obvious strategic value to the American-led coalition, took on outsize importance as the signature test of President Obama’s strategy for defeating the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL: American air power combined with local forces on the ground.”‘American officials said Kobani became important to them only because it became important to the Islamic State, which rushed reinforcements to the city — providing a steady stream of targets for coalition fighter pilots — and used the battle as a recruiting pitch for foreign jihadists.”