In a series of announcements on Saturday, Iran has tried to intimidate Iraqi Kurdistan into stepping back from its vote for independence on September 25.
Almost 93% of Iraqi Kurds voted Yes, in a turnout of more than 72%. The vote is not binding, but it has unsettled the Islamic Republic as well as the Iraqi government in Baghdad and neighboring Turkey.
Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, special advisor to Parliament on foreign affairs, used Twitter on Saturday to repeat the Supreme Leader’s line that the referendum benefits the Islamic State and Israel. Referring to Iraqi Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani, he said, “Barzani’s independence bid means strengthening Daesh and Tel Aviv, new regional anarchy and instability.”
Amir-Abdollahian, a former Deputy Foreign Ministry, continued, “Strong support for Iraq’s national unity is the real support for the Iraqi Kurds.”
Oil Shipments Banned, Joint Military Exercises With Iraq Planned
Beyond the rhetoric, Iran has warned companies against shipment of oil products to and from Iraqi Kurdistan.
A directive by the Roads and Urban Development Ministry said, “Given the recent developments in the region, it is suitable that international transportation companies and drivers active in this field avoid loading and carrying oil products to and from the Iraqi Kurdistan Region until further notice.”
THe ministry warned of “consequences” of any defiance of the directive.
Iran trades about $4 billion in oil with Iraqi Kurdistan each year.
The Iranian military made its contribution with the declaration of imminent joint military exercises with Iraq.
“The joint maneuver, Eqtedar (Strength), will be held by Iran’s Armed Forces and units of the Iraqi army along the two countries’ joint borders,” Deputy Chief of Staff Massoud Jazayeri said on Saturday.
Jazayeri added that Iran’s high-ranking commanders met on Saturday to discuss “official requests” from the Iraqi government:
[This was] in line with the declared policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran to help safeguard Iraq’s solidarity and territorial integrity and following a request by the central Iraqi government for cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran on the establishment of the central government’s authority on the two countries’ border terminals.
The Iraqi Defence Ministry said on Friday that Baghdad plans to take control of the borders of Iraqi Kurdistan “in coordination” with Iran and Turkey.