At center of Iraqi Kurds’ referendum, disputes that cleave the region

An RFE/RL piece delves into the complexity of the Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum, which has the potential to further destabilize the Middle East along several fault lines. Iraqi Kurdistan has already achieved de facto independence, yet Irbil could be setting up a clash with Baghdad as it effectively tries to annex the oil-rich province of Kirkuk, which is part of the referendum but not part of the Kurd’s existing proto-state. Both Turkey and Iran are concerned that an Iraqi Kurdish independence vote will ignite new separatist initiatives among their own Kurdish populations. Tehran could respond militarily using proxies as it tries to carve out a Shi’ite land bridge from Iraq to Lebanon, a plan that would be thwarted by a Sunni Kurdish state. Additionally, there is the possibility that Islamic State jihadists will seize on the tensions and carry out new attacks.


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