Iran’s regime has repeated its warning to Iraqi Kurdish leaders not to hold a planned referendum for independence.
The Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government has set the referendum for September 25, but Iran and Turkey as well as Baghdad have objected to the process. Last month, the Iranian Chief of Staff visited Ankara — the first visit by Iran’s top military officer since the 1979 Islamic Revolution — to demonstrate the extent of Tehran’s concern.
On Monday, Mohsen Rezaei, the Secretary of the Expediency Council, reiterated to Iraqi journalists in Baghdad:
[Iraq’s] breakup is a very wrong thing, because the disintegration of the country would be the starting point for dangerous insecurities in the region.
If the disintegration of Iraq begins, it will be extended to Syria and Turkey, and a separatist war will break up in the region, which may plunge the region to 20 years of insecurity.
That is why the Islamic Republic of Iran, Turkey, Syria, and Iraq are strongly opposed to a geographical change in the region.
Iran has maintained generally good relations with the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government, including a mutual interest in border security. However, both Ankara and Tehran are wary that an independent Iraqi Kurdistan could give further shelter to the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK and its Iranian ally PJAK.
The Islamic Republic is also hoping to maintain influence through links with the central Iraqi Government, and fear that a Kurdish breakaway could further unsettle Baghdad after the crises of the 2003 war, the failure to establish legitimacy throughout the country, and the recent battle with the Islamic State.
Rezaei said on Monday, “Some Kurdish leaders want to make a name and a reputation through the referendum, while what Iraqi Kurdistan needs is security and progress.”
Expediency Council chairman Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi also expressed Iran’s view in a meeting with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad on Sunday.