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The reason Tehran is against referendum on Iraqi Kurdistan

Iranian leaders and media have expressed strong opposition to the September referendum on the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Iraq's Kurdistan region's President Massoud Barzani gestures during a joint news conference with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (not pictured) in Erbil, Iraq April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari - RTS1348S

Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani on June 7 announced an agreement among Iraqi Kurdish groups to hold a binding vote in September that could pave the way for an independent Kurdistan, free of control by the central government in Baghdad. An independent Kurdistan, which would border Iran along a province with a large Kurdish population, poses many challenges for the Islamic Republic. Iranian leaders have been vocal in their opposition to any referendum that would split Iraq.

During a June 20 meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, expressed his opposition to the independence vote. “As a neighbor, the Islamic Republic is opposed to the holding of a referendum for the separation of a part of Iraq,” Khamenei said. Those who are pushing it are “opposed to the independence and identity of Iraq,” he added. “Iraq, with its roots and historical and cultural civilization, must remain integrated.”

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