ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iranian and Iraqi forces are to launch a joint military exercise on Iran's borders with the Kurdistan Region in the coming days, a senior Iranian security official told his country's state TV.
This comes as Iraq stated on Friday that they will hold military operation on Kurdistan’s borders in coordinations with neighbouring countries, Iran, and Turkey “when the time is due.”
Saed Masud Jazayiri, deputy head of the Iranian armed forces, said that Iranian commanders held a meeting Saturday morning during which they discussed helping Iraq in imposing its control over their border areas with the Kurdistan Region.
He said that the meeting was headed by Iran’s top military chief Major General Mohammad Bagheri, adding that the Iraqi authorities requested Iran’s cooperation in this regard.
Jazzayiri said that the exercise is a show of force by both militaries on the entire borders areas between the Kurdistan Region and Iran.
He said it comes in line with the Iranian position that demands the protection of Iraq’s unity and territorial integrity, in light of the Kurdish independence referendum that saw a 92 percent vote for independence.
Iraq’s defense ministry stated Friday that it was coordinating with neighbouring countries to implement Iraq’s “constitutional authority” over land and air borders, hours after government’s ban on international flights to and from the Kurdistan Region came into force.
The United States cautioned against unilateral use of force by Iraq or its neighbors.
Iraq’s Joint Command published a batch of photos of Iraqi soldiers stationed in Turkey, saying that they are “fully ready.”
Iraqi officials speaking to AP said they will take control of Kurdistan Region’s international frontiers by setting up border control points just outside Kurdish-controlled areas in Iran and Turkey. The Iraqi military will not move through the Kurdistan Region, AP reported.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, while showing his opposition to the Kurdish vote, cautioned the Iraqi government and its neighbours against the use of force.
“We call upon the central government to reject threats or even allusion to possible use of force. The United States asks all parties, including Iraq’s neighbors, to reject unilateral actions and the use of force,” Tillerson said in a statement released Friday.
Iraqi and Turkish armies have already conducted joint military drills near Khabur border crossing between the Kurdistan Region and Turkey. On Wednesday, Iraq’s top military chief travelled to Iran to meet with his Iranian counterpart to discuss enhancing military cooperation.
Iraq has called on the Kurdistan government to cancel the outcome of the vote, despite over 92 percent of the people voting to leave Iraq.
Since the foundation of the Kurdistan government 25 years ago, the Region has never been a threat to its neighbours, Barzani said before the vote.
Barzani, who is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, said at the time that the Peshmerga “will not allow Kurdistan to fall to the enemy.”
He directed the Peshmerga to be prepared to “pay whatever cost” necessary to protect Kurdistan.