Kurdistan Region would hold independence referendum on September 25 although opposed by the Iraqi state, its neighbours and world powers such as the United States. File photo" AFP/HO/IRNA
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iran to close the border gates it has with the Kurdistan Region, withdraw its diplomatic mission and to intervene on a military scale outside of its border with Kurdistan if the Kurdish leaders decide to go ahead with the scheduled referendum for independence just over a week from now, the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council has said on Sunday.
Ali Shamkhani said that there is still time left for Erbil to reconsider their decision on the vote. He said that they have told the Kurdish leadership that there will be “implications” if they insist on their move to leave Iraq.
Shamkhani explained that Tehran has established its relation with Erbil on the premise that Erbil is part of one united Iraq. But if the Kurdistan Region leaves Iraq, then from Tehran’s view, the border agreements will cease to exist.
“The republic of Iran has opened its legitimate border gates on the premise of the consent of the federal government of the Iraqi state. If such an event [referendum] happens, these border gates from the perspective of the Islamic Republic of Iran would lose its legitimacy,” Shamkhani told Iranian state news agency IRIB.
He said that the current security agreements that Tehran has with the Kurdistan Region regarding the border areas is also subject to Kurdistan remaining part of Iraq.
He warned that the Iranian security forces are currently confined to border areas, but if Kurdistan holds the referendum, then Iran would have the right to intervene militarily “deeper beyond the border areas”.
President Masoud Barzani said last month that they do not allow for Iran to intervene in the Kurdistan Region. The Kurdish Peshmerga also stated the same when the top Iranian commander made commnets against the Kurdish move.
The security agreement between Erbil and Tehran stipulates that the two sides would not allow activities that harm the security of one another, basically from the Kurdish side it is to prevent the Kurdish armed groups opposed to Iran from moving across the border freely, and in return Iran would not conduct cross border operations.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guards had said last month that they did not have any intention on conducting operations beyond the Iranian borders into the Kurdistan Region.
Iran has an embassy in Baghdad and also two consulates in both Erbil and Sulaimani. Shamkhani said it is meaningless for the two consulates to stay in the Kurdistan Region if their relations with the parent embassy is cut because of the Kurdish intention to declare independence.
He said that some of the Kurdish parties, not all, are mistakenly thinking that it is the right time for them to seize the opportunity to go for independence. He added that the move will weaken the Kurdish influence both in Iraq and also in the region.
He concluded that Erbil should take the path of dialogue with Baghdad to reach a solution on all outstanding issues, expressing that Iran is prepared to help with such talks.
He had earlier told a Kurdish delegation that Erbil should not expect “good things” coming out of Iran in response to a vote if held.
The Kurdish leadership stated on Sunday night that the vote would take place at its stated time of September 25 because no alternative have been offered to Erbil that could secure the ultimate goal of the people of Kurdistan--independence.
in August, asked about Iran by a Saudi newspaper, especially that it opposes the referendum, Barzani said they do not allow for Iran to interfere in Kurdistan.
The newspaper cited Iranian officials that four Arab capitals fell into the hands of the hnads of Iranian state, namely Baghdad, Damascus, Sanaa, and Lebanon, and then posed a question whether Barzani is concerned that Erbil could be next.
Barzani said they do not allow for that to happen.
“We do not want to clash or enter a conflict with Iran,” Barzani said, adding within the same sentence that “we do not allow the [Kurdistan] Region to collapse,” like the rest of the Arab capitals.
Iran’s military chief made a rare visit to Ankara last month, the first such visit since Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979, as he discussed the developments in Iraq and Syria with Turkish counterpart and Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, including the Kurdish referendum.
Iran’s military chief of staff General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri told Iranian media following the meetings that the two sides shared the view that the referendum “should not take place,” as it will have consequences on the neighbouring countries.
Kurdistan's Peshmerga ministry then published a statement calling his remarks “a blatant intervention in the internal affairs of Kurdistan,” saying that only the people of Kurdistan are entitled to have a say on the issue of the referendum.