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Iraq

CrisisWatch Iraq

Deteriorated Situation

Tensions rose between Iraqi Kurdistan and central govt in Baghdad over 25 Sept Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum. Despite opposition from U.S., UK, UN, Turkey, Iran and Syria, Iraqi Kurdistan President Barzani 12 Sept said referendum on independence would take place in governorates of Iraqi Kurdistan (Erbil, Sulaimaniya and Dohuk) and territories disputed with Baghdad. Parliament in Baghdad 12 Sept declared referendum “unconstitutional” and authorised PM Abadi to “take all measures” to preserve country’s unity; parliament 14 Sept voted to dismiss Kirkuk governor for endorsing referendum, Kirkuk governor challenged validity of dismissal. Kurdistan parliament 15 Sept convened for first time in nearly two years and voted in favour of holding referendum; opposition parties Gorran Movement and Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal) boycotted session. Supreme Court 18 Sept ordered suspension of referendum which it claimed was unconstitutional. At Baghdad’s request, Iran 24 Sept halted flights between Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan. Referendum held 25 Sept as planned; over 92% voted in favour of independence. Baghdad 27 Sept began ban on international flights in and out of Iraqi Kurdistan. Abadi 1 Sept announced end of ten-day battle to retake Tal Afar from Islamic State (ISIS) in north west. Military 16 Sept began offensive to dislodge ISIS forces from Akashat region on Syrian border. In Thi Qar province in south, ISIS-claimed shooting and suicide bombing near Nasiriyah 14 Sept left at least 80 dead. UNSC 21 Sept authorised probe into ISIS’s alleged war crimes in Iraq.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

16 Oct 2017
[The Kurds] may have made a miscalculation of historic proportions by proceeding with the [independence] referendum over the objections of just about everyone who counts. The New York Times

Joost Hiltermann

Program Director, Middle East and North Africa
16 Oct 2017
The fight [between the Kurdish and Iraqi forces] is clearly not over. The potential for civil war is there. Los Angeles Times

Joost Hiltermann

Program Director, Middle East and North Africa
3 Oct 2017
If things escalate [after Baghdad’s threats of military action against the Kurds], it will be because of a particular dynamic that evolves. I don’t think we’re even close to that point. The New York Times

Joost Hiltermann

Program Director, Middle East and North Africa
3 Oct 2017
[Former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's] biggest victory, and vindication, was to ascend to the presidency of Iraq, succeeding a dictator who had worked long and hard to eradicate the Kurdish national movement. The Washington Post

Joost Hiltermann

Program Director, Middle East and North Africa
30 Sep 2017
Kurdistan is not ready because economically, it is a mess. I don’t see independence happening. It’s all about capability, not desire. The New York Times

Joost Hiltermann

Program Director, Middle East and North Africa
25 Sep 2017
[The Iraqi Kurdistan referendum's] impact on Iraq will depend less on its turnout and results, and more on how Kurds and Iraqis will react to the vote and manipulate its results to achieve their political aims. Al Jazeera

Maria Fantappie

Senior Analyst, Iraq

Latest Updates

What Did the Kurds Get Out of the Referendum?

The “yes” vote in the 25 September 2017 referendum will not deliver independence for Iraqi Kurds. Rather, it is designed merely to remind Iraqi leaders in Baghdad that it is the Kurds’ strong wish to split off from a country from which they have always felt alien.

Originally published in The Atlantic

Also available in العربية

The Politics of the Kurdish Independence Referendum

On September 25, Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani plans to hold a referendum on Kurdish independence. The results will not be legally binding, but in calling for a vote, the Kurdish leadership has put its own society and its foreign partners into a bind. Although the vote may extend the lifespan of a Kurdish leadership otherwise in decline, it calls for unity that mutes domestic dissent and risks provoking crises that will leave Kurdistan externally exposed.

Originally published in Foreign Affairs

Also available in العربية

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