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’

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