Iraq (GPA) – The Iraqi parliament voted Tuesday to preemptively declare the planned Kurdish independence referendum as invalid.
The referendum – which would create an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq – is slated for the 25th of this month. The claimed legitimacy of the referendum has been a growing source of confusion as the date approaches but now it seems the Iraqi parliament has decided to answer these questions by preemptively rejecting any vote.
The resolution passed by a majority vote in parliament listed the Kurdish referendum as a “threat to … the civil peace and regional security.” The parliamentary bill also stated that the “referendum lacks a constitutional basis and thus it is considered unconstitutional.”
The resolution also allows the Iraqi Prime Minister to use any means necessary to uphold the official borders of Iraq and maintain order. Kurdish Members of Parliament left the session but whether they voted or not wouldn’t have made a difference.
The vote is opposed by all of Iraq’s neighbors who also deal with Kurdish separatists (Turkey, Iran, and Syria), but even western powers – led by the US – have urged the Iraqi Kurds to at least postpone the vote. The largest worry of every group is that, should the Kurds vote to secede, a new war could start between Baghdad and Erbil.
Even some Kurds in the region oppose independence, worrying that the referendum is an attempted power grab by the current government in Kurdistan. These Kurds worry about a war imposed on them by the current leaders and also already face internal repression.
If this conflict does break out, it would divert crucial resources from the Iraqi Army’s fight with the Islamic State as well as turn crucial oil-producing-regions back into war zones after such a brief peace.
Although the three Iraqi regions known as Kurdistan do already enjoy some autonomy, the Kurdish referendum is still obviously illegitimate. This should be apparent since the borders of ‘Kurdistan’ are still based on the national and regional borders of greater Iraq. The Kurdish referendum is in clear violation of the Iraqi constitution.
Conversely, some Kurdish MPs complained the parliamentary vote invalidating the referendum was the actual unconstitutional act. However, no matter what these MPs or the Kurdish leaders in Erbil say, almost nobody is going to recognize a “Yes” victory in the Kurdistan referendum.