The KRG’s announcement of the referendum date drew direct responses from a number of top Iranian officials, including from the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Khamenei voiced his opposition to the referendum and reiterated Iran’s commitment to Iraq’s territorial integrity during a meeting with Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi in Tehran.
But why does Iran so vehemently deny the right to independence to Iraqi Kurds?
Iran is home to a sizable Kurdish minority of its own. The Islamic Republic ties its own survival and territorial integrity to the continued dominance of the country’s Shiite majority. As a result, the ruling elite in Tehran perceives any ethnically-framed demand as a challenge to its authority and internal cohesion.
Consequently, Tehran has either ignored or harshly responded to Iranian Kurds’ demands for socio-cultural and political rights. Iranian Kurds – the majority of whom are Sunni – have suffered economic hardship and political exclusion under the Shia regime.
Iran fears that the establishment of an independent Kurdish state in Iraq would inspire separatism in Iranian Kurdistan, or at least bolster the disaffected Iranian Kurds to seek autonomy and make demands of Tehran for greater rights. From Tehran’s perspective, this could in turn destabilize the Islamic regime’s authority in Iranian Kurdistan and ultimately damage the country as a whole.
Iran is also worried that Kurdish designs to break away from Iraq could alter the regional balance of power against its strategic interests. Tehran thinks that Kurdish independence would lead to the final disintegration of Iraq along ethno-sectarian lines: a central Sunni-Arab state, a Kurdish state in the north, and a Shiite-Arab state in the south.
Tehran considers a Sunni-Arab state in the middle of Iraq a strategic disaster, as it would likely be dominated by Saudi Arabia. This could eventuality jeopardize the land corridor that Tehran has created over the past four years that connects Iran to its regional allies in Syria and Lebanon via Iraqi territories.
A Kurdish state in northern Iraq would be a win for Turkey, the United States, and Israel, all regional and international rivals of Tehran.
Compared to Iran, Turkey has gained much greater leverage over Iraqi Kurdistan through the strong alliance that Ankara has formed with Masoud Barzani, president of Iraqi Kurdistan and leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which controls most of the levers of power in the KRG. Iran, meanwhile, has relied largely on its connections to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), whose power in the Kurdish region has declined due to factional disputes and rivalries within the party.
Part of the frustration for Iran is that it has been watching Barzani build domestic consensus for holding the referendum primarily by persuading a powerful faction within the PUK to jump on the bandwagon and join the march towards Kurdish independence.
Iran Briefing | News Press Focus on Human Rights Violation by IRGC, Iran Human Rights
Mar 07, 2015 Comments Off on Iran’s military mastermind is ‘a more stately version of Osama bin Laden’
Feb 13, 2015 Comments Off on Even After Nuclear Deal, Iran Won’t Stop Supporting Terror
Jan 08, 2015 Comments Off on Iran’s Occupation of Syria
Oct 24, 2014 Comments Off on The Islamic Republic and Islamic State
Jan 10, 2018 Comments Off on Iran’s Regime at War With Itself
Jan 05, 2018 Comments Off on Iran Stages Pro-Government Rallies, Cleric Urges Firm Punishment for Protest Leaders
Jan 04, 2018 Comments Off on Why the young people of Iran are rising up in protest
Jan 02, 2018 Comments Off on Iran’s Supreme Leader Blames ‘Enemies’ for Deadly Protests
Jan 10, 2018 Comments Off on Iran’s Regime at War With ItselfIran’s Regime at War With Itself Public agitation in Iran has many wondering about the fate of the almost 40-year Islamic republic. As evident from the way in which the latest wave of protests has been contained,...
Jan 04, 2018 Comments Off on Why the young people of Iran are rising up in protestWhy the young people of Iran are rising up in protest Roozbeh Mirebrahimi is an Iranian-American journalist living in New York City. He is currently the editor-in-chief of the Persian-language publication Iran in the...
Jul 14, 2016 Comments Off on Corps’ one hundred thousand of triggered missiles in Lebanon:An official Israel-threatening by CorpsIran Briefing: Since August 7, 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini declared the last Friday of Ramadhan as “Quds Day”, the Islamic Republic has always tried to hold an imposing ceremony by using state resources as well as requiring people’s involvement. This year’s Quds march had fundamental...