Iraq's top court suspends Kurdish referendum

Their vehement opposition to an independence vote partly stems from their concerns about each other.

With just a week left before polling, the court said it "has issued the order to suspend organising the referendum set for September 25. until it examines the complaints it has received over this plebiscite being unconstitutional".

In the most forceful US statement so far opposing the referendum, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said: "The United States strongly opposes the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government's referendum on independence, planned for September 25". The Iraqis will not stand by and allow independence to happen.

Iraqi Kurdistan has enjoyed regional autonomy since the 1990s, a status bolstered in the 2005 Constitution that defined Iraq as a federal state. Concerned about Tehran's attempts to gain influence over Baghdad, Washington would also prefer that Iraqi leaders have the ability to prepare for the country's 2018 elections without having to address the problem of a Kurdish referendum.

The military strength of the Kurds will be another factor shaping the response to the vote by Iran - and Baghdad's.

"Barzani wants to use the process of independence through nationalistic sentiments [to bolster his support]".

Kurdish officials say they have increased the territory under their control by as much as 40 percent in the fight against IS, much of it where large numbers of non-Kurds live, such as Kirkuk province.

Residents in provinces controlled by the KRG will vote September 25 on independence from Baghdad.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi even went a step further on Tuesday saying they reject a Kurdistan referendum on independence "now or in future".

Iraq's top court has temporarily suspended the vote, but it's unclear whether the local government in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region will abide by the ruling. "Holding the referendum in disputed areas is particularly provocative and destabilizing".

Some parts of the disputed areas have been under the control of KRG forces ever since they defeated Daesh in the military operations that started past year in October.

The oil-rich province of Kirkuk is among the contested areas where the vote is planned.

It's unclear how much Manafort is being paid for his referendum consulting work.

All of Iraq's neighbouring countries, in addition to the USA and European Union, have declared their opposition to the referendum which threatens Iraq's territorial integrity and could lead to violence.

Witnesses in the region said they saw around 100 military vehicles deployed, including tanks, in the early hours of Monday, an AFP correspondent said.

Erdogan said the Turkish cabinet and security council would discuss Ankara's options.

Gaining wider global recognition will also not be an easy process.

But already tensions between the Kurds and Iraqis are on the rise.

The shooting came after a suicide auto bombing that rocked Kirkuk on Saturday, in which three people were killed and nine others wounded.

The UK holds the same stance, complaining about timing.

Iraq's Kurdish region, which covers portions of the country's north, is scheduled to vote on a referendum next Monday. If no viable alternative is offered, "it is impossible to postpone the referendum", Barzani said.

France, on the other hand, has used a more measured tone for the referendum plans.

According to his office, the Iraqi president has invited all leaders to call off the referendum and concentrate their efforts on defeating the Daesh terrorist group instead.

  • Leroy Wright