Of the many controversial elements surrounding this week’s Kurdish separatist referendum in Iraq, the inclusion of the oil rich region of Kirkuk was among the most controversial.
Kirkuk has never been a part of autonomous Kurdish regions in Iraq, but in spite of this, the secessionist Kurdish leaders included Kirkuk in areas where Kurds voted to secede from Iraq. Crucially, the referendum was boycotted by Kirkuk’s non-Kurdish populations, including Iraqi Arabs.
After giving secessionist leaders a three day ultimatum to handover regional airports to Iraqi authorities, Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider Abadi now has a parliamentary mandate to send Iraqi troops into Kirkuk to police the general security against secessionist activities.
Turkey and Iraq are currently conducting joint military exercises on the Turkish side of the border. Turkey’s President Erdogan has warned Kurds of the dire consequences of separatism including a Turkish economic embargo. Turkey may likely cross the border with its troops in the coming days.