After many months of sending mixed signals, the US has finally come out in opposition to a unilateral referendum for separatism which is being conducted by Kurdish organisers in northern Iraq.
With the exception of Israel which supports Kurdish separatism, every country in the region and beyond has condemned the referendum, including Russia.
Turkey has stated that it will conduct sanctions against Kurdish regions of Iraq should the referendum even take place, irrespective of the result. Turkey has on occasion had better relations with Iraqi Kurds when contrasted with the PKK aligned Kurdish factions in Syria which Turkey considers to be terrorists.
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A spokesperson for the US State Department has issued the following statement on the referendum,
“The United States strongly opposes the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government’s referendum on independence, planned for September 25. All of Iraq’s neighbours, and virtually the entire international community, also oppose this referendum”.
Instead, the former Fox News presenter Heather Nauert, whom Donald Trump appointed to her position in the Department of State, said that Kurds in Iraq should focus on engaging in dialogue with Baghdad.
Ironically, during the final decade of Saddam Hussein’s Presidency, the US was looking to weaken Iraq in any way possible and one of the simplest ways to do this was to support Kurdish separatists. Saddam Hussein had incidentally, already given Kurds substantial autonomy by the late 1990s.
Now though, that America has invested billions of dollars into its seemingly permanent presence in Iraq, Washington does not want to alienate the Iraqis by supporting a separatist movement.
The US position on Iraqi Kurds however, is unrelated to its position in Syria which remains ambiguous. While Iraq is now legally speaking, a partner of the US, Syria is not. The US may therefore use Syrian Kurds, to try and destroy Syria’s territorial integrity. That being said, Turkey is even more opposed to Kurdish separatism in Syria than it is in Iraq.