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As Iraqi Kurdish leaders make a renewed and much invigorated effort to split from Iraq, boosted by unilateral oil exports and a stronger grip over oil-rich Kirkuk, Iran seems to be stepping in now to subtly quash the idea and bolster unity in Iraq.
The referendum on independence is expected to be held later this year, possibly in October, and Iraq Kurdish officials are lobbying hard.
As Masoud Barzani - Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader and president since 2005 -prepares to visit Tehran now, already heavily lobbying for the independence cause in Washington, Iran is now urging a path of unity and territorial integrity.
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“As it was drawn from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, Iraq is a conceptual failure, compelling peoples with little in common to share an uncertain future. It is time to acknowledge that the experiment has not worked. Iraq is a failed state, and our continued presence within it condemns us all to unending conflict and enmity,” Masrour Barzani, the president’s son and chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council, wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post on 5 May.
There’s simply no more dealing with Baghdad, according to Barzani, who noted: “In short, we have pulled our weight. We have tried to be inclusive. We have been patient. But economic agreements that had guaranteed us revenue streams have been repeatedly dishonored and now sit discarded. Under successive agreements, we have had duties as a component of the Iraqi state, but they have never translated into rights.”
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But Iran, which has walked a careful line between Baghdad and Erbil, playing to the interests of both, now seems to be calling for caution.
“Iraq’s independence, unity and territorial integrity guarantees interests of the country’s people and all the regional and world states,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari told reporters in Tehran on Monday, as reported by Kurdish news agencies.
"Given the special conditions in Iraq, Iran persuades all Iraqi sides to respect the legal criteria and approaches and hold national talks to resolve their internal differences," Jaberi Ansari said.
By James Burgess of Oilprice.com
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