Turkey, Iran, Iraq consider counter-measures over Kurdish referendum

Kurdish girls hold posters showing Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani

"Ignoring the clear and determined stance of Turkey on this matter may lead to a process that shall deprive the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government of even the opportunities it now enjoys".

Iraq's Kurds have long held a dream of statehood. "We therefore call on the Kurdistan Regional Government to call off the referendum and enter into serious and sustained dialogue with Baghdad, which the United States has repeatedly indicated it is prepared to facilitate".

"The Supreme Court ordered the suspension of the procedures of the referendum set to take place on September 25 until it issues a ruling on complaints contesting the legality of the vote", Iyas al-Samouk, the head of the court's media office, was quoted as saying by Efe news. A "yes" vote doesn't necessarily mean that Iraqi Kurdistan would immediately break away from Iraq.

A possible fight might not be contained to Kirkuk.

Baghdad has censured the upcoming vote as unconstitutional, urging the Kurdish leadership to drop the plan. But for the United States, timing is everything.

Two of the province's oil fields are under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and three are run by Iraq's North Oil Company (NOC).

Britain's Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said on Monday he would try to persuade Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani at a meeting later Monday to call off a controversial September 25 independence referendum. Since doing so could be detrimental to the coalition against the extremist group, however, US officials will likely stick to less contentious tactics as it asks the Kurds for patience in their pursuit of independence.

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KRG leader Massoud Barzani, on the other hand, seems determined to go through with the referendum unless he is provided with concrete reassurances on the KRG's sovereignty rights.

Turkey fears that Kurdish independence would spur secessionist aspirations among its own Kurds, who account for up to 20 percent of its population and that an independent Kurdistan would harbor Turkish Kurdish insurgents already operating from the region.

The Turkish military exercise began in the Silopi-Habur region in the country's south, close to northern Iraq, the armed forces said. An independence referendum could disrupt the global fight against the Islamic State, which will not end for several more months. Economic sanctions on Iraqi Kurds would be a double-edged sword, while any military action could drag Turkey into a quagmire and possibly isolate the country.

His comments were echoed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a speech at the UN General Assembly yesterday.

Northern parts of Ninevah, Diyala, Kirkuk and Selahaddin governorates of Iraq are defined as disputed areas in the Iraqi constitution.

James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and an award-winning journalist.

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