Iran puts economic squeeze on Iraqi Kurds

Saul Bowman
October 2, 2017

Stepping up efforts to isolate autonomous Kurdish-held northern Iraq, whose people endorsed secession in a referendum on Monday that angered neighboring countries, Baghdad demanded that foreign governments close their diplomatic missions in the Kurdish capital Erbil.

On Wednesday, Kurdish officials said 2.8 million people living in the three provinces that form the Kurdistan Region, as well as "areas of Kurdistan outside the region's administration", had voted in favour of independence.

They also "agreed on measures to establish border security and receive Iraqi forces that are to be stationed at border posts", Jazayeri said.

Iraq's central government is making preparations for its military to seize control of worldwide borders along the northern Kurdish region in an attempt to isolate the Kurds from other countries.

The day before, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened the Iraqi Kurds with economic sanctions, adding that "military options" are also on the table.

The Iraqi government on Friday suspended all worldwide flights to and from the Kurdistan region, the BBC reported.

The Iraqi Kurdish regional government on Thursday rejected measures adopted by Baghdad in the wake of its independence vote as illegal and nothing more than "collective punishment".

Iran also closed its borders and stopped flights to Iraqi Kurdistan airports.

State carrier Qatar Airways was just the latest airline to announce all flights to and from the Kurdish region would be canceled starting Saturday.

Military tensions are running high; after the vote, the Iraqi parliament asked Abadi to send troops to Kirkuk, a disputed oil-rich city under KRG control that is only 50% Kurdish.

Turkey and Iran, which have their own restive Kurdish populations, opposed the referendum, as did the United States.

Urging both sides to find a calm end to vocal recriminations and threats of reciprocal actions the head of US diplomacy called on Iraqi Kurdish authorities to respect the constitutionally-mandated role of the central government.

While Iraqi Kurd leader Massud Barzani said the vote would not lead to an immediate declaration of independence but should instead open the door to negotiations, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi rejected the approach.

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