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Resounding “Yes” In Kurdish Independence Vote Leads to International Threats

Resounding “Yes” In Kurdish Independence Vote Leads to International Threats

Turkey’s Erdogan says no country but Israel will recognize an independent Kurdistan

Iraqi Kurdish leaders have announced that yesterday’s vote for Kurdish independence was a resounding “yes.”

According to the Kurdish Rudaw news outlet’s live results page, as of this writing, 3,440,616 votes have been counted, with 91.83% voting yes.  Final results are expected Wednesday.

Reuters reports:

Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani said on Tuesday that Kurds had voted “yes” to independence in a referendum held in defiance of the government in Baghdad and which had angered their neighbors and their U.S. allies.

The Kurds, who have ruled over an autonomous region within Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, consider Monday’s referendum to be an historic step in a generations-old quest for a state of their own.

. . . . “We may face hardship but we will overcome,” Barzani said, calling on world powers “to respect the will of millions of people” who voted in the referendum.

. . . . Earlier, the Kurdish Rudaw TV channel said an overwhelming majority, possibly over 90 percent, had voted “yes”. Final results are expected by Wednesday.

Iraq has, in response to the Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum, ordered Kurdistan to close its airports.

The New York Times reports:

Iraq’s prime minister on Tuesday, angered by a vote on independence by his nation’s Kurdish minority, gave the country’s Kurdish region until Friday to surrender control of its two international airports or face a shutdown of international flights.

. . . .  The Kurdish regional government, which has its own parliament and military force, operates international airports in its capital, Erbil, and in the northern city of Sulaimaniyah. There is no domestic Kurdish airline in the autonomous region.

Iraq asked other countries last week to halt flights into the Kurdish region, but only Iran complied.

As we noted yesterday, Turkey and Iran fear that a positive outcome for Iraqi Kurds seeking independence will result in heightened tensions with their own Kurdish populations by inspiring them to also seek independence.

The New York Times continues:

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.

. . . . 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.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that Kurds further pursuing independence will lead to a “sectarian and ethnic war.”

The Times of India reports:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday warned the Iraqi Kurdish leader against pushing for independence after holding a non-binding referendum, saying such a move risked sparking an “ethnic war” in the region.

“If (Massud) Barzani and the Kurdish Regional Government do not go back on this mistake as soon as possible, they will go down in history with the shame of having dragged the region into an ethnic and sectarian war,” Erdogan said in a televised speech.

. . . . Erdogan described the vote as a “treason to our country” since it had come at a time of good relations between Ankara and its neighbour the KRG.

He urged Barzani to “give up on an adventure which can only have a dark end.”

Erdogan reaffirmed that Turkey — which fears the effects of the vote on its own sizeable Kurdish population — would consider all options from economic sanctions to military measures.

“Airspace and ground (options) are all on the table,” he said, in apparent reference to his past threats to close the border.

“All options are on the table right now and being discussed,” he said. “You (the KRG) will be stuck from the moment we start implementing the sanctions.”

Erdogan further warned that no country in the world except Israel will recognize a free and independent Kurdistan.

The Turkish president said no other country would recognise Iraqi Kurds’ independence other than Israel, which had warmly supported the referendum.

“Who will recognise your independence? Israel. The world is not about Israel,” he said.

But Erdogan warned Barzani that the support of the Jewish state would not be enough. “You should know that the waving of Israeli flags there will not save you.”

The UN appears to agree with this grim outlook for Kurdish independence.

ABC News reports:

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is expressing regret that Iraq’s Kurds have gone ahead with an independence referendum.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Guterres noted the referendum was “unilaterally declared, included disputed areas” and was opposed by Iraqi authorities and the global community. The spokesman said Guterres regretted that opportunities for negotiations were not seized and viewed the decision to hold the vote as potentially destabilizing.

While the U. S. has opposed the Kurdish independence referendum, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says the U. S. will not change its historic relationship with Iraqi Kurds.

ABC News continues:

The United States says it’s “deeply disappointed” that Iraqi Kurds held a referendum on independence Monday, calling the vote “unilateral.”

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says the move will “increase instability and hardships” for the Kurdish region of Iraq. She says it will also complicate the ability of the regional Kurdish government to work with Iraq’s central government and neighboring countries.

Still, Nauert says the U.S. won’t alter its “historic relationship” with Iraqi Kurds because of the referendum.

Nauert also says the U.S. opposes moves by any parties to change boundaries in Iraq. She says the Islamic State group and other extremists are hoping to “exploit instability and discord.”


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Countries didn’t fall over themselves in recognizing the then new USA. The British acted as the Turkish are threatening to do here. Britain didn’t come around until 1783 (and then had further second thoughts about 30 years later). Between 1776 and 1783 there were a handful of countries that recognized the new USA. After the Treaty of Paris more and more came around to the new America.

    tom swift in reply to pfg. | September 26, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    The British acted as the Turkish are threatening to do here.

    The parallel isn’t terribly strong.

    The bulk of Kurdish-majority territory (say, 75-100% Kurdish population) is in southeast Turkey, but this referendum was about the Kurdish-majority territory in northeast Iraq. It had nothing to do with independence from Turkey. Not directly, anyway.

    However, the Kurdish notion of an independent Kurdish country includes that large chunk of Turkey, and smaller chunks of Iraq and Iran. And this the Turks and the Persians know perfectly well. In other words, long-festering demands for independence won’t end with a Kurdistan carved exclusively from Iraq.

    Britain would have been much more stubborn in 1783 if it had reason to expect that Ireland and Scotland would agitate to become part of the new United States of America.

    Mac45 in reply to pfg. | September 26, 2017 at 8:54 pm

    Well, the American Colnies did not declare independence from France nor did they include any French territory. They declared independence from the avowed enemy of the French, at that time, the British.

    If the Kurds, in Iraq, declare independence from Iraq, this places the US in a very damaging position. If we recognize the Kurds, we have to disavow the Iraqis. Also, Kurdish independence will not stop with Iraqi territory; it would eventually include Iranian and Turkish territory. If al three existing nations gang up on the Kurds, there is no way that the Kurds can survive without direct intervention by the US. This opens the door to direct intervention by the Russians, and possibly the Chinese.

    Freedom is wonderful, unless you lose at your attempt to obtain it and take the rest of the world down with you. Personally, I have no desire to get involved in a world war over any country, ethnic group or tribe in the middle east. But, that is just me. Others may welcome such a conflict.

Freedom has a loud voice….

Balkans: “We are the flashpoint of all global upheavals!”

Fertile Crescent: “Hold my mastow…”

The Kurds have been cohesive and far more reasonable than all of their neighbors for a long time.

I’d support their economy by purchasing a Rambo/Daisy Duke style wall poster of one of those Yazidi chicks holding an M60. Hell make it into a calendar. Then we could fly them in and have them attend university with all the special snowflakes and make millions on the gopro footage of them going all 3rd world on the protestors.

Kurdistan would be a great place for a US Military base considering Turkey’s actions in the past against the US Base in Turkey. It would be great if the US & the EU stepped back from Turkey.

Something the Kurds need to consider is that they are landlocked. If Iraq agreed tomorrow to let them have their piece of its territory and offered no easement through their country, what would the Kurds do? The Iraq part of the Kurd empire is one of the smallest with Turkey having the largest. They need to be real careful about their next step lest they find themselves in the position of the NFL.

Remind me why the US and the UN were just fine with the Albanian majority in Kosovo forcibly tearing themselves away from Serbia, after driving out most of the Serbs.

    The Livewire in reply to Milhouse. | September 27, 2017 at 10:45 am

    I remember that, and I remember thinking then that someone was going to use that as precedent. Fast forward to Georgia and Putin…

Whatever you might think of Wilson’s “Self-determination of Peoples,” the Kurdish vote for independence in Iraq is a threat to the territorial integrity of Iraq, Turkey, Iran, Syria and Armenia. Those five governments will almost certainly form an anti-Kurdish entente, and to the extent that we support the Kurds it will of necessity also be an anti-American entente. The vote also has the potential to drive the five governments into an expanded entente with Russia. So, the Kurdish vote actually threatens American interests in the Middle East, and we should oppose Kurdish independence out of self-interest.

    Milhouse in reply to bob sykes. | September 27, 2017 at 9:18 am

    How Kissengerian of you. What about decency, and doing the right thing?

      So, exactly what is the “right thing”? That is a very subjective term, you know. For the established nations, where the Kurds reside, it would obviously be to maintain their territorial integrity. From the Kurdish perspective, it would likely be an autonomous Kurdistan composed of all the contiguous territory where ethnic Kurds reside in the Middle East. For the US, what is the right thing? If Kurdish succession leads to war, should the US support the Kurds? If so, are we willing to spend our blood and treasure against a likely coalition of existing Southwest Asian nations and their allies, such as Russia? So, exactly what is the “right thing” here?

      The Kurdish situation is analogous to the residents of an ethnic or racial minority neighborhood in an American city voting to form their own independent city from territory already incorporated into an existing city. If the city says no way, would we expect the federal government to send troops into that city to support the succeeding residents? How about a predominately black area succeeding from a state or even the USA? Wait, we already decided that back in the 1860s, didn’t we?

      No, Kurdish succession is not in the immediate interests of the US. Sorry.

        Milhouse in reply to Mac45. | September 28, 2017 at 9:41 am

        Another Kissingerian heard from. Right and wrong don’t depend on whose interest is served. You clearly don’t believe there is such a thing, which explains a lot.

        For the established nations, where the Kurds reside, it would obviously be to maintain their territorial integrity.

        No, that would be in their interest, but it would not be the right thing. They have no right to their “territorial integrity”. It’s not their land. The Kurds should rightfully have had it long ago, and the right thing for them to do would be to give it up peacefully. Obviously they won’t do that, but that puts them in the wrong.

        For the US, what is the right thing? If Kurdish succession leads to war, should the US support the Kurds?


        If so, are we willing to spend our blood and treasure against a likely coalition of existing Southwest Asian nations and their allies, such as Russia?

        Probably not. What has that got to do with it? Why do you assume that if we support their struggle we must therefore join it? We owe the Kurds moral and diplomatic support, because they’re our friends and the good guys; we don’t owe them any resources or military support, so we should make that decision based entirely on what seems to serve our own interests. Whether this makes what they’re doing a good idea for them is entirely their business.

        When Israel declared independence, the US at first did the right thing by immediately supporting it; did anyone even suggest that we should therefore get involved in the war that resulted?! Nobody did. (The US then betrayed that initial support by imposing an arms embargo on all parties to the war, including Israel, which desperately needed weapons. That was the wrong thing. But the right thing would simply have been to allow Israel to import whatever weapons it could buy or have donated; donating some surplus weapons of our own would have been super; but not to send troops.)

The question isn’t whether Kurdish independence is good for us. The question is whether it’s good for the Kurds. Will we turn our backs on the Sunni group in Iraq that didn’t make a fetish of murdering our troops? Were it up to me, we would not.

    Let us remember a very important detail with regard to the Kurdish assistance to the US during the Iraqi occupation and during the fight against ISIS; it was in the Kurd’s self interest to ally themselves with the US. It was also in the best interests of the US to ally with the Kurds. However, it would not be in the best interests of the US to support Kurdish independence, at this time. It is possible that something could be worked out later, which would not destabilize the Middle East.Or, things might change to the point that supporting Kurdish independence with US forces may be in the best interests of the US. But, none of these conditions exist now.

The Kurds have got their act seriously together and deserve their own nation state. Turkey and Iraq can go take a flying leap into a pit of broken glass.

Kurds definitely throw a wrench into Iranian Shi-ite crescent across the Middle East backed by Russians/Chinese. Also destabilizes Turkey. Kurds don’t want to immigrate to US, but want to fight for their own land. Those are good things. While Tillerson & commie State Dept doesn’t want to recognize them, would think Trump will tactility support them, say with heavy arms, etc.