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Iran and the Kurds

What the Referendum Means for Tehran

A boy rides a bicycle with a Kurdish flag in Tuz Khurmato, Iraq, September 2017. Thaier Al Sudani / Reuters

On the eve of Monday’s referendum on the future of Iraqi Kurdistan, Iranian armed forces conducted a significant military drill on the border between Iran and Iraq as Tehran warned the Kurds not to move forward with the plebiscite. Meanwhile, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council—the entity in charge of crafting and communicating the country’s security strategy—announced that it would halt all flights to and from the Kurdistan region’s major airports, Sulaymaniyah and Erbil. According to Tehran, the council took that step after Baghdad requested it to do so. All this activity is hardly surprising; in a region plagued by conflict and terrorism, the Kurdish referendum may just be Iran’s greatest challenge yet. And now that the Kurds have voted for independence despite regional and international opposition, they’ll be starting what will likely become a long, multilayered negotiating process to achieve secession. 

Iran

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