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Rudaw

Kurdistan

Iran Quds commander tries to obstruct referendum in visit to Sulaimani

By Rudaw 11/4/2017
Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ elite Quds force. Photo: AP/file
Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ elite Quds force. Photo: AP/file
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Iranian Quds commander, Qasem Soleimani, has visited Sulaimani amid increasing talks of Kurdistan Region independence, Rudaw has learned.

A senior Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) official, who asked to remain anonymous, confirmed to Rudaw that Soleimani visited the Kurdish city.

According to the Arab-language newspaper Sharq al-Awsat, Soleimani was meeting with members of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in an attempt to discourage a referendum on independence in the Kurdistan Region.

Hossein Yazdanpanah, deputy head of the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK) in Iran, told the paper that the head of Iran’s elite Quds force had two main goals in his meetings with PUK leaders in Sulaimani. 

The first is to attempt to obstruct the Kurdistan Region’s referendum process. 

Iran has said that it supports the territorial integrity of Iraq. “The unity of Iraq and sustainable security in that country is of prime importance for us,” Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani told the secretary general of Kurdistan’s Islamic Union Party Salaheddin Bahaeddin in February. 

According to Yazdanpanah, Iran is worried an independent Kurdistan will change the political geography of the Middle East by becoming a democratic state, forming a close alliance with the United States, and preventing Iranian hopes of creating a route of friendly allies through Syria. 

“Iran will try it is best to stop the referendum process,” he told Sharq al-Awsat.

A committee formed jointly by the PUK and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) on the weekend met with foreign consulates in Erbil, including Iran, to discuss plans to hold a referendum on independence this year. 

The hope is that Kurdistan Region neighbours “do not see this newborn entity as a threat to their security and stability,” said government spokesperson Safeen Dizayee.

Iran, like Turkey, has its own restive Kurdish population. 

Soleimani’s second reason for visiting Kurdistan Region, according to Yazdanpanah, was to try to drive apart the PUK and KDP, who have been working closely together, holding multiple high-level meetings and coordinating over the referendum issue. 

A high level official in the PUK told Sharq al-Awsat anonymously that Soleimani had requested the PUK to not make any deals with the KDP, and to support former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. 

Reacting to Soleimani’s visit to the Kurdistan Region, UAE Police Deputy Lieutenant General Dhahi Khalfan took to Twitter to demand the Iranian leave the Region. 

Khalfan said it was time for the Kurds, the ancestors of Salahaddin al-Ayoubi, to “announce your independent country, and I am the first of Prophet Mohammad’s people to recognize your country.”

He added that Kurds are a generous people and do not deserve such treatment from their neighbours.

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Azad | 11/4/2017
Thank you UAE you and other gulf states have good relationship with KRG. KRG can have good relationship with all states that recognise the right for independence of Kurdistan region.
FAUthman | 11/4/2017
For Iran to have more influence on the Shiia leadership of Iraq and more control on the riches of southern Iraq, Iran may prefer Iraq to be split up rather than kept whole. This may also result, Iran may reason, in a diminished US influence on Baghdad if Iraq were to split up. For the US, if it seeks regional stability it needs to truly reconsider whether the myth of suppression of Kurds will result in a stable region. The US should not discourage thus holding the referendum in Kurdistan and then it should persuade Abadi to come to terms with the Kurds on more self rule if not outright total disengagement from Iraq.
A Concern Kurd | 11/4/2017
The U.S. Treasury also designated the head of the Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, not only for terrorist activities."http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Mode=1&DocId=6191680&Language=E" he should be arrested by local police and be handed over to international court for trial.
Hama | 11/4/2017
This is why its so important for KRG to have secuare and stable relations with Turkey. Otherwise we are landlocked with Iran and Iranian proxies all around us. Turkey is our only route to the international community. Turkey has also shown a lot of signs that they will accept independence in KRG. They build our pipeline and sell our oil even when they could easily cut us off and force us to do anything Baghdad tells us. Turkey has an interest in kurdish independence in KRG. This will weaken Iran's overall influence over the region that is now Iraq as part of the larger Saudi Arabia/Iran proxy war where Turkey is naturally siding with saudis. Relations with Turkey is not a choice like some would want you to think. Its a nessescity for KRG's survival.
guest | 11/4/2017
There's practically no reason for the Arab world not to support Kurdish independence, on the contrary, but unfortunatly only the Gulf countries seem to be somewhat serious and even they are lukewarm. Considering the GCC's financial power, their huge influince over the Arab and Islamic world and their powerful lobby in the US it wouldn't take that much effort for them to make big imapct on Kurdish indipendence. Kurdish territory is defacto separated from Arab territory in Iraq and Syria, except for some minor issues with Bagdad and Damascus we have no problem with the Arab world, and historically we've never had problems with Arabs until the British/French came and created this mess 90 years ago. We need Arab support now not after we gain indipendence and everything is over, it's now the Arab world can strike a partnership with Kurds.
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