Iraqi Kurdistan’s neighbors have rushed to block the independence push, while the US and others downplay the situation.
02 October 2017 | JOSEPH TREVITHICK | The War Zone
Iran has moved tanks and artillery up to the border with Iraqi Kurdistan, close enough to the boundary that they are visible from the other side. The move is the latest in a string of increasingly threatening responses to the semi-autonomous region’s decision to vote in favor of independence, which has drawn widespread condemnation from national governments in the region and failed to win unequivocal support from many of the Kurd’s powerful western allies, including the United States.
On Oct. 2, 2017, the Iranian forces appeared along the Iran-Iraq border, reportedly as part of a previously announced combined drill with Iraqi national forces and militia in retaliation for the independence vote.
Authorities in Tehran had already kicked off military exercises near the boundary on Sept. 24, 2017 a day ahead of the poll in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, ostensibly as part of the annual Sacred Defense Week to commemorate the Iran-Iraq War. More than 3.3 million people there, more than 70 percent of registered voters, turned out on Sept. 25, 2017 to cast their ballots, with more than 90 percent voting in favor an independent Kurdistan.
Iranian and Iraqi officials had “agreed on measures to establish border security and receive Iraqi forces that are to be stationed at border posts,” Iranian state media said, according to Reuters. Iran’s top military leadership had met to discuss the situation and “[the] necessary decisions were taken to provide security at the borders and welcome Iraq’s central government forces to take position at border crossings,” Masoud Jazayeri, a spokesman for the Iranian army, had told the press on Sept. 30, 2017.