Negotiations over the controversial referendum vote for a fully autonomous Kurdistan in northern Iraq are heating up as its September 25 date draws near.
Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani made a vow Wednesday to scrap the upcoming vote on the condition that the international community promise, in exchange, to accept the results of a future vote.
“Such guarantees should be first from the Iraqi government and the Iraqi parliament,” Barzani told the Arshaq al-Awsat newspaper. Next, he would seek “the guarantee of the United States and the international coalition as well as European Union and the United Nations.”
The vote for a fully autonomous Kurdistan has been met with protests from Baghdad, Washington and Ankara.
If restless parties agree to a joint memorandum of understanding stipulating the delay of the September 25 vote until the same day in 2018, for example, and promising to unconditionally acknowledge the outcome even if it meant a free, autonomous Kurdistan, then Barzani might call off next month’s referendum.
In the eyes of Baghdad, a “significant” issue is the promising cash cow that is the Kirkuk oil field, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Gen. Vincent Stewart said in May. Kirkuk reserves were responsible for the production of 160,000 barrels of oil daily, a North Oil Company official told Rudaw in June.
Speaking to the US Senate, Stewart explained that the prospect of Kurdish independence isn’t a theoretical matter but simply a practical question of how soon it will occur.
This week, however, the Wall Street Journal cited US officials as being opposed to the September 25 referendum since it could disrupt efforts to combat Daesh, a fight that relies on the cooperation of Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga warriors.
Whenever the vote occurs, the map in the Middle East will almost certainly need to be redrawn.
Turkish officials have expressed concern that the vote might empower Kurds in Syria to split with Turkey and build a semiautonomous region in northern Syria, WSJ reported Tuesday.