While Iraqi Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani has claimed victory in independence referendum ahead of votes tallied, the pressure on Kurdistan is growing. With the results supporting independence expected on Thursday, the Kurds are preparing a mandate to negotiate secession.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider-al Abadi has already denounced the mandate as “unconstitutional” and refused entering negotiations with KRG, demanding that control of Erbil and Sulaymaniya airports be handed over to Iraq’s central government by Friday.
This also spurned the reaction from the other countries opposing the referendum. Most notably, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has gone on record saying: “If Barzani and the Kurdish Regional Government do not go back on this mistake as soon as possible, they will go down in history with the shame of having drawn the region into an ethnic and sectarian war”.
Both Turkey and Iran, fearing separatist unrest in their own Kurdish minorities, threatened to close borders and impose sanctions on oil exports. “It will be over when we close the oil taps, all [their] revenues will vanish, and they will not be able to find food when our trucks stop going to northern Iraq,” said President Erdogan. As Kurdistan depends on Turkey’s food export and transit of their oil to Europe by pipeline, Turkey is capable of landing a devastating economic blow to Kurdistan. The trade between Turkey and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is worth more than $10 billion.
Barzani appealed for peace and dialogue. “We assure the international community that we are committed to a dialogue process with Baghdad,” he said. “Threats will solve nothing.”