Iran’s regime has again warned the Iraqi Kurdish region against any move for independence, just over a week ahead of a referendum on the issue.
Ali Akbar Velayati, the Supreme Leader’s senior advisor, said on Saturday, “The Islamic Republic of Iran opposes any move either knowingly or unknowingly towards independence of one part of Iraq or any other country in the region.”
He said Iran is a “strategic ally” of Iraq and agrees with “the legal Iraqi government” on its rejection of Kurdish separation.
The Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government, led by President Massoud Barzani, has scheduled the referendum for September 25.
At a rally on Saturday night, Barzani told more than 30,000 people that it was now too late to cancel the vote:
We said before, but the time is now late for that, that if there was a better and more guaranteed alternative in place of referendum…then we welcome that. But nobody did that. Nobody brought a better alternative.
He added that he did not accept the right of any state to question the decision: “It is not acceptable if the situation reaches a point where they doubt the legitimacy of the referendum. We do not take legitimacy from anyone, we take legitimacy from the people of Kurdistan, and from the blood of our martyrs.”
Velayati portrayed Kurdish independence as an initiative helping Washington: “Undoubtedly, arrogant and hegemonic powers, particularly the US and the Zionist regime [Israel], will benefit from it.”
However, on Friday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said:
The United States does not support the Kurdistan Regional Government’s intention to hold a referendum later this month. The United States has repeatedly emphasized to the leaders of the Kurdistan Regional Government that the referendum is distracting from efforts to defeat [the Islamic State] and stabilize the liberated areas.