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Iran, US intensify efforts to stop Kurdish referendum

Image of a support rally for Kurdish independence ahead of the Kurdish referendum [Hemin Hawrami‏/Twitter]
A support rally for Kurdish independence ahead of the Kurdish referendum [Hemin Hawrami‏/Twitter]

Senior US and Iranian officials have made separate last minute attempts to find alternative to the planned Kurdish independence referendum which is due to take place on Monday, Kurdish sources have said.

The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force, General Qassem Soleimani and the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter Daesh at the US Department of State, Brett McGuck, separately made several shuttle trips between Baghdad, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah last week.

A source familiar with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) told Al-Monitor news site that the Iranians and Americans both agree that the referendum should either be postponed or cancelled altogether.

According to the source, Soleimani warned that “Iran has so far prevented the Popular Mobilisation Forces from launching an attack,” adding that he “will not bother to do that anymore”.

Read: Will a former militia leader be Iraq’s next prime minister?

“Look at Mandali and what happened there, it’s just the beginning,” the source quoted Soleimani as saying, referring to the arrival of more than 100 members of the Popular Mobilisation Forces to the disputed city of Mandali in Diyala Province where they forced the Kurdish head of the local council to resign and declared the town will not participate in the referendum.

The website said that Iran and the US are conveying similar messages, but the motives behind their positions are different.

According to the site, while Washington fears the referendum will weaken the position of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi ahead of next year’s elections which would strengthen the positions of Iran’s supporters, Tehran believes the referendum is an American, Israeli trick to destabilise the region and create a new threat to Iran’s security by influencing Tehran’s eight million Kurds.

On Monday, the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court, the highest judicial authority in Iraq, ruled to suspend the referendum procedures.

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