A boy riding a bicycle with the flag of Kurdistan in Tuz Khurmato, Iraq, September 2017.
Thaier Al-Sudani / REUTERS

In the face of enormous opposition, on Monday Iraqi Kurdistan went ahead with a referendum on independence. Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States were among the major international powers that urged the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to reconsider or postpone the event. Regional powers, including Iran, Iraq, and Turkey, were less measured, issuing economic, security, and diplomatic sanctions against the KRG—most of which have not yet materialized. Even so, the mood in the KRG capital Erbil was festive. Initial results suggest a high turnout (over 72 percent), and it appears that a large majority of voters endorsed the bid for independence.

Of course, the vote is non-binding and its implications will be more political than legal. In fact, this is not even the first referendum that the Iraqi Kurds have held on the question of independence: they voted on the same question in 2005. Then, too, independence received almost

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