Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region has called a referendum on independence to be held on September 25, an official said on Wednesday, moving ahead with a plan for full statehood that is likely to be opposed by Baghdad.
So far, the Iraqi government has no reaction to the declaration and is expected to oppose the Kurdish move in protest to the timing as the Iraqi forces are in fighting against terrorism, including the Islamic State (IS) militant group, and because of the disputed areas outside the region. After years of attempting to work within the US-built federal system in Iraq, the Kurds in the northern region have decided they like autonomy so much that they want to make it official.
IRAQ's Kurdish region will hold a bombshell independence referendum in September, despite fierce opposition from Baghdad.
Iraqi Kurdistan, like the rest of the country, depends nearly entirely on revenue from crude sales to provide government funds.
But due to how Iraqi Kurdistan exports oil, Turkey potentially has both an effective veto over independence in general, and a ready means to apply huge pressure to the fledgling state's economy if it did split from Iraq.
A tweet from Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani's assistant, Hemin Hawrami, said: "big news". "We can only warn against one-sided steps on this issue".
The vote has as much to do with independence and relations with Baghdad as it does with domestic political issues and economic crisis plaguing the KRG, according to Denise Natali, a Kurdistan expert and research fellow at the US National Defense University.
The independence of Kurdistan could be opposed also by neighboring countries of Turkey, Iran and Syria who will see that such a step would threaten their territorial integrity, as larger populations of Kurds live in those countries.
Germany is a major partner for the Iraqi Kurds.
Kurdish officials will visiting Baghdad and neighbouring states to discuss the referendum plan, Erbil-based TV Rudaw said, adding that elections for the Kurdish regional parliament are planned for November 6. Since then Kurdish Peshmerga forces have retaken large chunks of ISIS-held territory, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, leading to more tensions with Baghdad.
Opposition in Baghdad to Iraqi Kurdistan becoming independent would become even greater if the region tried to take disputed territory along with it. "Redrawing the lines of the state is not the right way and could exacerbate an already hard and unstable situation, in Erbil as well as Baghdad".