Poster in Iraq urging vote for Kurd independence
Poster in Iraq urging vote for Kurd independence Reuters

Iraq's Supreme Court has granted a request by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to suspend an independence referendum that the country's Kurdistan region plans to hold on the 25th of this month, according to Voice of America.

The court said today (Monday) the vote will be on hold until it examines the vote's constitutionality.

The Kurds are likely to proceed with the vote despite the ruling, while the United States and Turkey have expressed strong opposition. Israel is on record favoring Kurdish independence as both nations share common interests and enemies, with Israelis having volunteered to join the Kurds in military expeditions against ISIS.

Abadi has opposed the referendum, including in an Associated Press Saturday interview in which he called the independence vote a "dangerous escalation" that would jeopardize Iraqi sovereignty, and told an Iraqi news agency that the Kurds would be "playing with fire" by continuing referendum plans in the three governorates that make up the Kurdish autonomous region.

Kurdistan Regional Government

The Kurdish region has repeatedly ignored calls to cancel the referendum, and the supreme court has little power to implement its order.

Ankara, with its own restive Kurdish minority, that mainly borders Iraqi Kurdistan, fears an independent Kurdish state could fuel similar secessionist demands. Those fears are heightened by the suspicion that Syrian Kurds on the Turkish border harbor the same independence ambitions.

Kurds celebrate upcoming referendum

The United States has voiced strong opposition to the independence vote.

On Friday the White House released a statement saying the United States "does not support" the Kurdish plan to hold a referendum, saying the plan "is distracting from efforts to defeat ISIS and stabilize the liberated areas." Further, it says, "Holding the referendum in disputed areas is particularly provocative and destabilizing."

Map of area

The Trump administration is calling on the Kurds to cancel the referendum and instead engage in "serious and sustained dialogue with Baghdad."

Florida-based Kurdistan activist Patti Welch reacted to US policy by saying that the "US turned its back. Nothing like kicking those who put their lives on the line to clear ISIS out ... I spoke with a young Kurdish family this week...all they want is a chance. They fought without pay..."

Iran also opposes the referendum, but Turkey may have the most influence on the Iraqi Kurds.

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