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U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has asked oil-rich Kurdistan to delay its referendum on independence from Iraq, currently scheduled to take place in September, according to emerging reports.
“Our point right now is to stay focused like a laser beam on the defeat of ISIS and to let nothing distract us,” the secretary told reporters before approaching Erbil for the meet with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani on Tuesday.
In a phone call with Barzani earlier this month, Secretary of State Rex TIllerson similarly insisted the referendum be held at a later date, instead of September 25th.
The KRG remains determined to hold the vote as scheduled.
“We intend to proceed with the referendum on Sept. 25 to allow our people to determine their own future,” security official Masrour Barzani said after on Tuesday night, according to The New York Times. “This remains the only solution; forced coexistence in Iraq isn’t working.”
All countries that are part of the U.S.-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State believe the referendum should be postponed due to its possible effects on the fight against the terrorist group, said Brett McGurk, President Donald Trump’s special envoy to the coalition. But the Kurdish Peshmerga army insists that a vote in favor of an independent Kurdistan would not lessen its vigor or resolve in combat.
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Opponents of the vote have been devising veiled oil infrastructure plans to stifle independence efforts. Earlier this summer, Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said that Iraq and Iran had reached an agreement to commission a feasibility study of a crude oil pipeline that would export oil from fields in Kirkuk via Iran.
“In order to raise more legal problems in Kirkuk, Baghdad and Tehran have been trying for a long time to work on a pipeline to transport crude oil from the province to the Iranian territories,” said Dilshad Shaaban, deputy chairman of the Kurdistan Parliament’s natural resources committee.
By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com
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Zainab Calcuttawala is an American journalist based in Morocco. She completed her undergraduate coursework at the University of Texas at Austin (Hook’em) and reports on…