The Politics of the Kurdish Independence Referendum

How the Vote Could Provoke Crises and Silence Dissent

Kurdish leaders, clerics, and elders in Erbil, Iraq, August 2017. Azad Lashkari / REUTERS

On September 25, Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani plans to hold a referendum on Kurdish independence. The results will not be legally binding, but in calling for a vote, the Kurdish leadership has put its own society and its foreign partners into a bind. Although the vote may extend the lifespan of a Kurdish leadership otherwise in decline, it calls for unity that mutes domestic dissent and risks provoking crises that will leave Kurdistan externally exposed.


The participation of Iraqi Kurdish forces in the campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS) over the last few years won the region’s leaders unprecedented foreign military assistance and expanded control over ethnically mixed disputed territories along its internal boundary with the rest of Iraq. With the campaign’s culmination in the capture of Mosul this summer, however, external military support and international attention may taper off. For instance, the Pentagon recently

Loading, please wait...

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.