Disputed Territories a Major Challenge to Kurdish Referendum

It has already warned that holding a referendum by Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan Region would be a "grave mistake." Despite the thaw in relations between Iraqi Kurds and Turkey for the last decade, Kirkuk is where the Kurdish aspiration for independence and Turkish support for Turkmen collide.

As the referendum in the disputed territories has the potential for further instability, it attracted international objections as well. For example, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq already released a statement in which it explained that "it has no intention to be engaged in any way or form as concerns the referendum, to be held on 25 September." The United States and most of the Western countries oppose the referendum, too. US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert already told reporters that the United States supports "a unified, stable, democratic and a federal Iraq."

The Kurdish internal discord cannot be overlooked either. The rivalry between the PUK that has dominated Kirkuk — the epicenter of the disputed territories — politically and the KDP that has controlled a lot of Kirkuk's oil infrastructure can affect the timing and the possibility of holding a referendum in general and in those areas in particular.

Despite the above internal and external challenges, there are also technical obstacles over the vote. For example, the head of the Kirkuk commission has already said that "no preparations have been made for the referendum as there were no instructions from Baghdad to do so." In other words, instead of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), IHERC in Kurdistan will oversee and conduct the referendum, including voter registration.

Comments are closed.