The Politics of the Kurdish Independence Referendum
The Politics of the Kurdish Independence Referendum
How to Mitigate the Risks of Iraqi Kurdistan's Referendum
How to Mitigate the Risks of Iraqi Kurdistan's Referendum

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.

Parties Over Institutions

The participation of Iraqi Kurdish forces in the campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS) over the last few years won the region’s leaders unprecedented foreign military assistance and expanded control over ethnically mixed disputed territories along its internal boundary with the rest of Iraq. With the campaign’s culmination in the capture of Mosul this summer, however, external military support and international attention may taper off. For instance, the Pentagon recently acknowledged that although coalition troops could be expected to stay in Iraq after the defeat of ISIS, the U.S. footprint would be smaller and would involve fewer bases. Some Kurdish leaders thus believe they have a limited window of opportunity to organize a referendum, the second such attempt since 2005.

The full article in English can be read at Foreign Affairs while the Arabic version can be read here.

Contributors

Former Senior Adviser, Iraq
Cale Salih

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