The United Nations Security Council has announced its opposition to the upcoming Kurdish independence referendum, set to take place today.
During the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week, the Security Council said that such a vote would be ”destabilizing” to Iraq, which has disintegrated since the war against the Islamic State began there three years ago. While the Iraqi military has been successful in recent weeks in retaking cities captured by ISIS, the war is far from over, and the country will have to rebuild many of its cities and re-establish infrastructure in order to fully recover.
Another concern expressed was over Iraqi sovereignty, which has been threatened by the expansion of the Islamic State throughout the country over the last three years. The Iraqi cities of Mosul and Fallujah, among others, were completely taken over by ISIS and only liberated recently. The government of Iraq declared victory over ISIS in July of this year, although its army continues with offensives to push out ISIS militants.
In June, the UN announced that it would not “be engaged in any way or form” with the referendum, although they stopped short of condemning the vote.
Despite the Security Council’s charge that the referendum could lead to instability, Kurdish leaders have claimed exactly the opposite. History, they claim, may be on their side: similar referendums have, in past, been successful, particularly in places like Kosovo, East Timor, and the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
While the Kurds have been effectively self-governing for several years in northern Iraq, they have yet to hold an official vote to determine their plans for recognized independence. A vote was planned originally for 2014, but was postponed due to the war in Iraq and Syria. Kurdish security forces, called Peshmerga, have been an instrumental part of the fight against the Islamic State, working both independently and as part of the US-led coalition.
The vote has been opposed strongly by Iran, Iraq and Turkey, all of which are home to sizeable Kurdish minorities. Nationalist Turkish leaders like President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have referred to the Kurds as terrorists and have vehemently opposed any and all plans for Kurdish independence.
On the other hand, the referendum has been supported by Israeli leaders, who have made connections between the Kurdish struggle for independence today and the Jewish struggle for independence 70 years ago.