Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi [L] and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meet in Tehran on October 26, 2017. Photo: Khamenei.ir
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iran's Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei said on Thursday that he stands by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's measures to preserve Iraq's territorial integrity. This comes a day after the Kurdish offer to freeze the outcome of the independence vote and its rejection by Baghdad.
PM Abadi visited the Iranian capital on Thursday where he met with the Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri. He is also in a meeting with President Hassan Rouhani. Khamenei described the Kurdish vote as a threat to Iran.
Khamenei said that he “supports the measures of the Iraqi government aimed to protect its full authority and territorial integrity.”
PM Abadi said they had warned the Kurdish authorities that they will not allow Erbil to leave Iraq since such a move threatens Baghdad.
PM Abadi said on Thursday: “We do not accept anything except the cancellation of the referendum and adherence to the [Iraqi] constitution,” while meeting the Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri in Tehran.
Following the nearly 93-percent vote for independence, Iraqi forces, and the Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi have taken control of almost all disputed or Kurdistani areas from the Kurdish Peshmerga since October 16, including oil-rich Kirkuk.
PM Abadi is on a Mideast tour and has so far visited Saudi Arabia, Cairo, Jordan, Turkey and Iran. These countries have all expressed their support to the territorial integrity of Iraq in light of the Kurdish vote.
“We will protect the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq with great care, just as we had told our brother in the [Kurdistan] Region that we will not allow the threat of separation to threaten our country,” PM Abadi said, according to the Khamenei official website.
PM Abadi began his regional tour from Saudi Arabia when the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was also in Riyadh where they held a trilateral meeting kick-starting a new era between Baghdad and Riyadh. The US move is to distance Iraq from Iranian influence.
Khamenei said that he will support Iraq having good ties with its neighbours, but that PM Abadi has to be careful about the US “tricks,” and that “you should never trust them.”
Jahangiri, on his part, congratulated the Iraqi leader on his victory against ISIS militants and for his efforts to protect the territorial integrity of Iraq.
He said that Tehran is happy that Baghdad was able to crush Kurdish efforts to “divide” Iraq.
He described the Kurdish vote as a “big sedition” that could have spread to other countries of the region, “but fortunately this issue was resolved with prudence in Iraq,” Iran’s state-run IRNA reported.
Arguing against what would be a devastating war between Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, the KRG proposed three things on Wednesday morning: the cessation of fighting in the Kurdistan Region; freezing the outcome of the independence referendum; and beginning dialogue with the federal government on the basis of the Iraqi constitution.
The United State States Department has already welcomed the Kurdish initiative.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of the story mistakenly attributed PM Abadi's remarks in paragraph number 8 to Ayatollah Khamenei.