Kurdish Leader: ‘Yes’ Vote Won Referendum

Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani confirmed that Kurds had voted “yes” to independence in Monday’s referendum, which was held despite strong opposition from Baghdad, as well as Turkey and Iran, both of which fear that their own minority Kurdish populations may likewise seek greater autonomy. The move was also opposed by the U.S. and much of the international community, amid claims that it could further destabilize Iraq — both Ankara and Tehran have threatened to take military action against Kurdistan — as well as deflect attention from the fight against the Islamic State. In fact, the lone country that openly supported the Kurdish bid was Israel, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu having described the Kurds to a visiting delegation of U.S. congressmen earlier this month as a “brave, pro-Western people who share our values.” Since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the Kurds have ruled over a region in northern Iraq, while maintaining economic ties with and political representation in the national government. While the result of the referendum is not binding, it was meant to provide Barzani with a strong mandate for negotiations with Baghdad and neighboring countries over Kurdistan’s secession from Iraq.

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