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Iran, Iraq to hold drills after Kurds choose independence

Iran and Iraq are to hold joint military exercises near Kurdish territory following the independence vote, Iran's state television reports. Turkey has also threatened a series of measures to punish Iraqi Kurds.

Irak Erbil Flughafen (Getty Images/AFP/S. Hamed)

On Saturday, military spokesman General Masoud Jazayeri told Iranian state television that commanders have decided to hold joint war games with Iraq. They also "agreed on measures to establish border security and receive Iraqi forces that are to be stationed at border posts," Jazayeri said. 

Since Kurds in northern Iraq voted for independence on Monday, Iran has closed its borders to the autonomous territory, stopped flights to regional airports and banned transportation of refined oil products to and from Iraqi Kurdistan.

Iraq's government has also attempted to pressure Kurds to walk back their vote, demanding that they hand over control of airports and borders and imposing a ban on international flights to and from Iraqi Kurdistan on Friday. Officials in Baghdad said the flights would resume if the central government received control of Kurdistan's airports. That appears unlikely to happen.

"We will not allow even one single person from Iraq, from the Iraqi civil aviation, or from the office of the Iraqi Council of Ministers to come to Erbil and Sulaimaniya international airports without our decision," Kurdistan Transport Minister Mawlood Bawa Murad said on Saturday.

Also on Saturday, it was announced that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is to visit Paris on Thursday to meet President Emmanuel Macron "to strengthen bilateral relations and concentrate efforts on fighting terrorism." The visit was not related to the Kurdish referendum, according to a statement from Abadi's office and a phone conversation between the two men "did not mention in any way the need to recognize the rights of the Kurdish people."

Infografik Karte Kurdische Siedlungsgebiete ENG

Erdogan's conspiracy theory

On Monday, over 92 percent of voters in Iraqi Kurdistan chose independence. Fearing that self-determination in Iraq could inspire Kurds in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government has threatened several sanctions measures in addition to military cooperation with Iraq.

On Saturday, Erdogan said Iraqi Kurdistan "will pay a price" for the "unacceptable" referendum, without elaborating. He called on Kurds to "wake up from this dream" of independence.

In an apparent attempt to discredit the referendum, Erdogan also suggested that the independence effort had an improbable provenance. "This administration has a history with Mossad," Erdogan said, referring to Israel's intelligence agency.

Israel has demonstrated unlikely support for the region's self-determination, with even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu backing "the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to attain a state of its own." However, self-determination has been a long-held dream for the world's 30 million Kurds, who are divided by Middle Eastern borders with no state of their own.

mkg/jlw (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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