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Enormous Turnout for Kurdish Independence Referendum

Enormous Turnout for Kurdish Independence Referendum

Nearly 80% turnout as tensions escalate with Turkey and Iran

Last week, we blogged about today’s Kuridsh Independence referendum.  Yesterday’s Kurdish independence rally attracted an enormous crowd, perhaps foreshadowing nearly 80% of the reported 3.9 million registered voters turning out at the polls today.

Jubilant Kurds described today as “the best day of their life” and some even took to flying the Brazilian flag because there were no Kurdish ones left.

The Guardian reports:

Thousands of people in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq have cast votes in a referendum billed as a first step towards independence from Baghdad, defying regional demands that the ballot be abandoned and international fears that the outcome could spark violence.

As voting stations closed, more than 80% of registered voters had cast ballots in a poll that many felt went beyond the demands of Iraq’s Kurdish north to buttress the cause of Kurds across the region.

. . . .  In Kirkuk, a multi-ethnic oil city 60 miles south of Erbil, Kurdish areas were brimming with voters, many wearing celebratory clothes or traditional costume. “This is better than [the Islamic festivals],” said Abdul Kareem Kakarash, 62, a blacksmith. “It is the best day of my life.”

His relative Mala Rasul Mamish, 40, said: “I hope that the west will see this as a historic day, and not just the project of one political party. It is much more than that. So much of our blood has been spilled for being Kurds. The Iraqi government has done to us things that even infidels wouldn’t do.”

The ballot is widely expected to deliver an overwhelming yes for independence – a boost for the de facto Kurdish president, Massoud Barzani, who had invested much of his political capital as leader in putting Iraq’s Kurds on a pathway to independence.

While Kurds turned out in record numbers, their Arab neighbors, some fearful of retribution, chose not to vote.

The Guardian continues:

In the city itself, Hasiba Abdullah, 51, who supervised a polling station in a Kurdish neighbourhood, said of the vote: “It’s a dream come true for everyone. We want the Kurdish flag to rise over all our communities here. They will all be included. We are ready to set aside all disputes and take our east in the global community. We want to see our flag at the United Nations.”

Across Kirkuk, in an Arab suburb, Abu Ahmed, 61, an oil worker who did not vote, said: “Some people are not going to vote. There is more interest for the Kurds to vote. It’s less likely in the Turkmen and Arab areas.”

In a nearby polling station, Amid Najmedin said about 10% of registered voters had turned up by noon. “Arabs are not coming to vote,” he said. “The Iraqi government has been threatening people. Because of their pressure, others do not feel comfortable to participate.”

Watch the report:

Iraq’s neighbors are not happy with the vote, and neither, reportedly, is the U. S. or the UK.

The New York Times reports:

Kurds across northern Iraq lined up Monday morning to vote in a referendum on whether to seek independence for an autonomous Kurdish region that has yearned for nationhood for more than a century.

Despite withering criticism from the Iraqi government and the United States, voters marked simple paper ballots with boxes offering a “yes” or “no” choice on whether to embark on a path toward an independent Kurdistan.

Some Iraqi Kurds were in a defiant mood, reflecting the region’s determination to withstand resistance from the international community, which fears the vote will unleash ethnic conflict and further destabilize Iraq. The Kurds’ two much larger neighbors, Turkey and Iran, have threatened to close borders and impose other sanctions.

A convincing “yes” vote, which is expected, would not lead to independence anytime soon. But Kurdish leaders believe a broad public mandate would provide leverage in any negotiations with Iraq on the Kurdish region’s push toward independence.

Even as Kurds flashed ink-stained forefingers certifying they had voted, the referendum was fraught with risks that could further isolate and marginalize the landlocked enclave.

The New York Times continues:

The Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, said Sunday night that Iraq would “take the necessary measures to preserve the unity of the country.”

The Iraqi government, which considers the vote illegal, demanded that the Kurdish government surrender control of its international border posts and give up revenue from its oil exports to Turkey, the region’s single biggest source of income.

At Iraq’s request, Tehran halted flights on Sunday between Iran and the two international airports inside Iraqi Kurdistan. Kurds now worry that Baghdad will close airspace over the region.

. . . . Turkey and Iran, who fear the vote will foment unrest among their own Kurdish minorities, are conducting military exercises on their borders with Iraq near Kurdistan.

. . . . The United States had pressured Kurdish leaders to cancel the vote, warning that it could it could set off ethnic conflict, fracture Iraq and undermine the American-led coalition against Islamic State militants. The White House called the referendum “provocative and destabilizing,” and the American envoy to the region said it had no prospects for international legitimacy.

Despite stating its opposition, the United States has significant military and intelligence assets in Iraqi Kurdistan. Kurds are counting on relations with the United States continuing as usual once the referendum is completed and the rhetoric becomes less heated.

Iran has reportedly closed its border with Iraqi Kurdistan.

The Independent reports:

Iran has closed its border with the Kurdish region of Iraq at the request of Baghdad, a statement from the Iranian foreign ministry has said. Land crossings into Iran were shut to Iraqi Kurdistan on Monday, as Iraq’s 8.4 million Kurds lined up at polling stations to vote in a referendum on creating an independent state.

The decision follows the closure of both Iranian and Turkish airspace to Iraq on Sunday.

The Kurds hope that the result of the nonbinding vote will lead to Kurdish independence, while neighboring countries fear their success could lead to similar calls for independence from their Kurdish populations.

Fox News reports:

Kurdish officials say a “yes” vote will send a message Baghdad cannot ignore, paving the way for negotiations aimed at a peaceful exit. But Iraqi government officials maintain just the opposite, that the referendum will push the two sides further apart and make it even more difficult to resolve longstanding disputes.

The regional government has long been at odds with Baghdad over disputed territories like the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, which are controlled by Kurdish forces but outside their autonomous zone. They have also argued over the sharing of oil revenues, with the Kurds exporting through a Turkish pipeline over objections from Baghdad.

The conflict has been largely peaceful until now, but in recent days both sides have threatened to use military force to protect their interests. In Kirkuk, the epicenter of the territorial dispute, the governor imposed a nighttime curfew after the vote.

Both Turkey and Iran condemned the vote, fearing it would inspire their own sizable Kurdish minorities, and both have carried out military drills this week on the borders of Iraq’s Kurdish region.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that Kurdish independence was unacceptable, and a “matter of survival” for his country. Pointing to the military drills along the border, he said “we could arrive suddenly one night.”

Turkey has several ways of pressuring the Kurds short of military intervention. Much of the Kurdish region’s oil exports flow through a Turkish pipeline, and Turkey is the region’s main trading partner.

While official results of today’s vote are not expected until later in the week, preliminary counts indicate overwhelming support for independence.

RadioFreeEurope reports:

Officials in the Kurdish autonomous region of Iraq have begun counting votes in an independence referendum that the United Nations, the United States, and other Western powers warn could stoke new tensions throughout the entire region.

Preliminary results were expected as early as September 26, and final results by September 28, the agency supervising the vote said. Still, there appeared to be little doubt there would be an overwhelming “yes” . . . .

As of this writing, the Kurdish Rudaw news site’s live results page shows 282,017 votes counted, with 93.29% voting “yes.”


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Who was it – about ten years ago – who suggested Iraq would be better off divided into three parts: Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish? I keep thinking it was Cheney, but that can’t be right. Anybody?

    Milhouse in reply to snopercod. | September 26, 2017 at 2:01 am

    It was Biden. a lot of people made fun of him for it over the years, especially on the right, but it made sense to me. I never saw why Iraq should remain one country. and if we hadn’t wasted time and resources trying to build a strong, democratic, and united Iraq, and instead had screwed the Sunnis and established allied Kurdish and Shi’ite states, there was a prospect of a whole pro-US Shi’ite revival.

    I’ve always supported an independent Kurdistan, and my immediate reaction to Turkey screwing us on the Iraq invasion in ’03 was that Bush should punish them by establishing a Kurdish state in Iraq, without making it renounce territorial claims in Turkey.

    tom swift in reply to snopercod. | September 26, 2017 at 4:33 am

    Any Shi’ite partition would just be a free gift to Iran. Which Cheney would know, because he isn’t an idiot. Biden, on the other hand …

    Almost all Kurds in Iraq are Sunnis. Which doesn’t really make things any better.

    Everyone in that part of the world is wary of giving the Kurds any chance to gain the upper hand on them. Although the Persians and the Turks consider the Kurds to be bumpkins, they also consider them potentially very powerful bumpkins, based on a military reputation dating back to the Battle of Hattin some eight-odd centuries ago.

      Milhouse in reply to tom swift. | September 26, 2017 at 5:06 am

      There was no reason why a Shi’ite Iraqi state should have accepted Iran’s leadership. It was far more likely that, with suitable preparation from the US, such a state would have set itself up as a rival to Iran, and serve to rally Shi’ites throughout the middle east and even inside Iran to a pro-US position.

        tom swift in reply to Milhouse. | September 26, 2017 at 2:03 pm

        Not the slightest chance. There’s every reason for a Shi’ia to accept Persian dominanace—every reason which counts to a Shi’ite, at least.

        The Sunnis will resist Iran. Not the Shi’ites.

        A Shi’ite Caliphate would be—and, the way things are going, will be—based in Iran. There is no other strong candidate. The Persians dominate Shi’ia, as they always have.

          Milhouse in reply to tom swift. | September 27, 2017 at 4:26 am

          There’s every reason for a Shi’ia to accept Persian dominanace—every reason which counts to a Shi’ite, at least.

          Such as?

          The Persians dominate Shi’ia, as they always have.

          No they haven’t. They’ve mostly dominated it because Persia was the only major Shi’ite state, but if we had set up another one in Iraq there’s no reason it would have bent the knee to the Persians. On the contrary, Iraq has more important Shi’ite sites than Iran does, and the Arab Shi’ites of Iraq are well aware of the disdain with which the Persians regard them, and return the sentiment. A Shi’ite state in Iraq would more likely have set itself up as a rival to Persian dominance, with its own mullahs proclaiming their authority superior to that of the Persians’ and competing for the allegiance of foreign Shi’ites, especially Arab ones in the Gulf states and western Arabia.

4th armored div | September 25, 2017 at 11:28 pm–20170923-0023.html
Why Does Israel Support an Independent Iraqi Kurdistan? | News
19-24 minutes

The air is cooler there, the skies bring more rains than the rest of Iraq, but the sea of Iraqi Kurds have waved the same flag since 1919: red, white and green, with a large yellow sun in the middle. It is this flag that represents their cries for independence and equality, having suffered years of oppression as a national minority.

Baghdad Rejects ‘Second Israel’, US and Australia Rejects Kurd Referendum

But what of the Kurdistan region’s imminent referendum vote calling for statehood on Sept. 25, where rallies leading up to the highly contested vote, feature another flag rippling among the crowds: Israel’s?

The occupier of Palestinian lands has become the only country to support Iraqi Kurdistan’s separatism.

While the long-persecuted Kurds of Iraq ramp up their calls for autonomy, moving away from simply being an autonomous region within Iraq led by the Kurdish Regional Government, to a country entirely separate from Baghdad, the situation begs the question: why does Israel support it?

A second Israel?

It was in 1966 that that Iraqi Defense Minister Abd al-Aziz al-Uqayli made the proclamation that the Kurds of Iraq are seeking to establish “a second Israel” in the Middle East.

Some 51 years later, Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki has emphatically declared the same, saying, “We will not allow the creation of a second Israel in the north of Iraq.”

While relations between Iraqi Kurdistan and Israel have become more transparent in recent years, the history between the two dates back many decades.

“There’s a preceding history dating back to at least the fifties,” Patrick Higgins, a Ph.D. student at the University of Houston who writes on the history of leftist Palestinian movements, told teleSUR. “These quiet ties are now coming out in the open.”

Indeed, it was just this week that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared, “the Kurds have been and will continue to be reliable and long-term allies of Israel since they are, like us, a minority group in the region.”

He added that the referendum is “the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to attain a state of its own.”

The late Israeli President Shimon Peres had also supported Iraqi Kurds and their quest for statehood, with hundreds in the Kurdistan region paying their respects to the former Israeli president when he died in 2016.

But this vocal support is fairly new and precedes a much quieter policy of support that began shortly after Palestine was expunged to make room for the state of Israel in 1948.

In a bid to stave off the influence of neighboring anti-Zionist Arab countries, Higgins explained, Israel began creating an “alliance of the peripheries.”

“In order to undermine the idea of a united pan-Arab socialist state,” he said, one that supports the Palestinian struggle, “Israel (sought) to make ties with non-Arab Muslim actors.”

That policy of undermining pan-Arabism, which, according to Higgins, has expanded now into undermining the “Axis of Resistance” — that is, Iran, Syria, as well as Lebanese and Palestinian resistance movements — explains Israel’s underlying motive for supporting Iraqi Kurds.

Indeed, it was also this month that Israeli General Yair Golan openly said that an independent Kurdish region in Iraq would stem the influence of Iran.

“Given Iran’s presence in the east and instability in the region, a solid, stable, coherent Kurdish entity in the middle of this quagmire is not a bad idea,” the general stated during an event at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Iran — which opposes the Sept. 25 referendum — recognizes this alliance. According to an official within Iran’s Expediency Council, Ali Akbar Velayati, the existence of a secessionist Kurdish state in Iraq would only benefit of the United States and the “Zionist regime of Israel,” both of whom seek to “colonize and dominate” the Middle East, Press TV reported.

As Lebanese journalist and political commentator Osama al-Sharif wrote in the Jordan Times, “Netanyahu and his far right allies know very well that a unilateral Kurdish decision to cede from Iraq in the absence of an agreement over a number of contentious issues, least of which is the future of oil-rich Kirkuk province, would trigger a civil war that is likely to spill over.

“Destabilizing the region and weakening central governments will shift attention from Israel’s nefarious policies towards the Palestinians while hastening the process of colonization of what remains of the West Bank,” he continued.

Oil and money

But Israel’s support for Iraqi Kurdistan extends past politics: the two parties have deep-seated economic ties as well.

“The KRG has been quietly making all kinds of money with ties to Israel,” Higgins said.

According to a 2015 report by the Financial Times, Israel imported three-quarters of its oil from Iraqi Kurdistan that year.

Beyond Israel, the oil-rich region and its quest for independence, has already fomented the support of oil corporations, not least of all due to the KRG’s cooperation with their demands.

In hopes of procuring financial support to create their own state, the KRG has violated both Iraqi law and OPEC treaties, subsidizing exports for oil corporations such as DNO International.

As Brad Blankenship wrote in Al-Masdar News, “What is developing in Iraq is a nation that will almost certainly be partitioned, not for the intention of conquering Iraq in the classical sense, but to use Kurdish oil to force the government in Baghdad to loosen public control over its own resources and to slow the rate of social progress.

“This, of course, has always been the goal sought by the West in Iraq even though Western governments are against Kurdish independence — at least on paper,” he added.

The United States has publicly opposed the Sept. 25 referendum — but that, said Higgins, is on the same page as Israel: the staving off of Iran’s influence in Baghdad. However, he added, for the United States, this translates into appeasing Iraq, which fiercely opposes the independence referendum.

Beyond economics: from military to intelligence

Beyond economic cooperation, Israel’s ongoing policy of supporting Iraqi Kurdish separatism, has also seen ties in the areas of agriculture, technology, education and sports.

The first official acknowledgment that Israel had provided aid to the Iraqi Kurds also extends as far back as 1980, when Prime Minister Menachem Begin revealed that Israel had supported them during their “uprising against the Iraqis between 1965 and 1975.” Israel had sent arms and ammunition then, later also helping with propaganda campaigns in Europe, courses for Kurdish medics, and creating schoolbooks in Kurdish.

While this military aid “took a backburner between 1975 and the 90s” due to “political developments in the region,” Higgins said, that has not stalled ties in recent years.

According to a report published in the New Yorker magazine in 2004, Israeli military and intelligence operatives were active in Kurdish areas in Iraq and provided training for commando units.

Israel has also used Iraqi Kurdistan as a base from which to obtain intelligence on Iraq, also using it to gather intelligence on Iran when the Islamic Republic came to power in 1979.

Mustafa Barzani himself, the most prominent Iraqi Kurdish nationalist leader, and the father of current KRG President Masoud Barzani, had gained the support of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, during his numerous independence struggles against Baghdad.

Beyond Sept. 25

As Iraqi Kurds take to the polls Monday, Israel can rest assured of its popularity among the population.

Netanyahu Says Israel Supports ‘Independent Kurdish State’

According to a 2009 poll, 71 percent of KRG’s residents support establishing diplomatic relations with Israel, while 67 percent said they viewed relations between the two as an important step toward an independent Kurdistan.

While there is a split opinion among the group as to whether Iraqi Kurdistan should separate right now — evident by the “No for Now” campaign, that has voiced alarm that the plebiscite is less about Kurdish independence and more about Barzani consolidating his power — the joint flags at the rallies are an indication of Israel and Iraqi Kurdistan’s deep-rooted ties.

“The repression of the Kurdish, that’s where Israel has sought out its political interests,” Higgins affirmed.

    shortly after Palestine was expunged to make room for the state of Israel in 1948

    And shortly before Barsoom won the World Series, the Superbowl, and the Stanley Cup in quick succession, which led to the joint US/Cuban invasion of Mars under General Castro.

    As Brad Blankenship wrote in Al-Masdar News, “What is developing in Iraq is a nation that will almost certainly be partitioned, not for the intention of conquering Iraq in the classical sense, but to use Kurdish oil to force the government in Baghdad to loosen public control over its own resources and to slow the rate of social progress.

    “Its own resources”? What makes them its? and he says that like it’s a bad thing to “loosen public control” over resources, and to slow the rate of “social progress”, i.e. communism.

THESE are people we should be supporting!

They have invested time, money and effort in to creating a functioning state instead if brain washing their children to kill Jews on sight!