An independence referendum has been scheduled in Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) today. Having used empty words about an independent Kurdish state for years, KRG President Masoud Barzani recently called for a vote on independence, only to alienate his closest allies in the region and place everything the Kurds worked for at risk. Rather than calling a presidential election, which should have taken place years ago, he has decided to risk all. If he calls off the referendum, the next crisis in the Middle East can still be averted. But if Barzani chooses to double down, the world must brace for the next violent conflict in the region.
Whether Barzani ends up aborting his push for independence or not, the truth is that the independent Kurdish state was always bound to be stillborn. The KRG president's poorly-thought-out political maneuver took place at a time when the entire region experienced severe crisis. What was infinitely worse than this irrational and absurd idea was to try and form an independent state by waving the flag of Israel, which represents nothing but oppression, human rights violations and evil for the peoples in the Middle East.
To be clear, Turkey and Iran cannot be expected to stand idly by as this ill-conceived project comes to fruition. The central government of Iraq warned that the referendum was unconstitutional and threatened military action against KRG forces. To make matters worse for Irbil, Western countries, including the United States, already announced they were against Barzani's independence referendum.
Of course, Washington has a long history of playing Baghdad against the KRG and it is therefore necessary to take seriously the claims that the United States offered veiled support to the referendum by using Tel Aviv as a proxy. Keeping in mind the political crisis in America, it would not be unrealistic to suggest that certain circles in the U.S. capital have been encouraging Mr. Barzani. Washington's official position, however, is that the independence referendum placed at risk ongoing anti-Daesh operations in Iraq and Syria.
If the independence referendum, for which Mr. Barzani campaigned under Israeli flags, passes, its outcome will be completely immaterial. The controversial vote will inevitably lead to more wars, chaos and bloodshed in an already troubled part of the world.
Kurds will be the biggest loser if Barzani decides to double down on this endeavor. The Kurdish people, who were oppressed for decades, will not only experience a decline in their living standards as a result of this reckless action, but they will also become the targets of a great new wave of violence. Sadly enough, they had a real chance to improve their living standards and turn Irbil into an oasis of stability in Iraq.
As a consequence of today's vote, Iraqi Kurds who have worked and toiled since the early 1990s to improve their lives will lose everything while the entire region will be pushed further into chaos.