Kurdish referendum triggers retaliation from Iraq, Turkey

World Today

Travelers check in at the Irbil International Airport, in Iraq, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017. Iraq’s prime minister ordered the country’s Kurdish region to hand over control of its airports to federal authorities or face a flight ban, a response to the Kurdish independence referendum. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)

After Iraq’s Kurdish independence referendum, its neighbors have taken strong and immediate action. Baghdad declared the vote invalid. Tehran banned flights to and from the region, and Turkey threatened to cut a Kurdish artery — its oil pipeline.

CGTN’s Tony Cheng reports from Erbil.

Crowds of supporters cheer on Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah in Beirut.

The organization, closely tied to the Iranian government, has accused Iraqi Kurds of creating new divisions in the Middle East and creating further instability in the fight against ISIL.

“After the failure of the Daesh scheme which was entirely a scheme that served the U.S. and Israel and aimed to deliver the entire region to the U.S. and Israel, now they are implementing a new scheme, one that has been in the works for some time,” Hassan Nasrullah said. “But now is the time for action which is the plan to partition the region once again and the starting point is Iraqi Kurdistan.”

Similar sentiments were made by Turkey’s President. He has threatened to shut down the vital oil pipeline that carries oil from Kurdistan to the Mediterranean.

“They are not forming an independent state in northern Iraq, on the contrary they are opening a wound in the region to twist the knife in,” Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said.

“Ignoring this fact will not do good neither to us nor to our Kurdish brothers in Iraq or others parties.”

Nonetheless, the Kurds say these comments are due to his own presidential re-election campaign in 2019.

The leading political party in Kurdistan said it is not concerned. They said they expect their neighbors will soon calm down, when they realize an Independent Kurdistan will be a pacifying presence in the region.

“We don’t have any concerns regarding what our neighbours are saying,” Janghis Awakalay, an officer from Kurdistan Democratic Party says. “We will assure our neighbours that Kurdistan will be a factor of stability in the region.”

But if the Kurds were expecting support from their traditional allies, the United States, they may have to think again.

While the U.S. is unlikely to support any military action against the Kurds, its unlikely to end their isolation either. U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, currently in China, released a statement saying the referendum was illegitimate.

The government in Erbil must have expected this reaction, and with the overwhelming support for independence in the vote, they will also find it hard to back down.