Gamble by the Kurds

Saad Aldouri and Renad Mansour on how a referendum over independence backfired

The World Today Updated 18 November 2020 Published 15 December 2017 4 minute READ

Saad Aldouri

When the Kurds of northern Iraq called a referendum on independence for September 25, the aim was to strengthen their hand against Baghdad following the defeat of the so-called Islamic State group. It has backfired spectacularly.

The decision to provoke Baghdad, the neighbouring countries and most of their international allies, has reversed historic gains made by the Kurds towards building their own state. Within three weeks of the vote, they lost a fifth of the territory under their control, including most of their oil and gas fields, as well as control over border checkpoints with Turkey, the lifeline of their landlocked economy.

Despite the seeming unity on the day of the referendum − the result was 92 per cent in favour of independence − not all Kurdish leaders thought the vote a good idea, given the level of opposition from international allies such as the United States and Turkey.

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