Iraq Issues Warrants for Kurdish Officials Involved in Independence Vote

Female members of a Kurdish Peshmerga battalion show their ink-stained fingers after casting their vote in the Kurdish independence referendum in Arbil, on September 25, 2017. Iraqi Kurds voted in an independence referendum in defiance of Baghdad which has warned of 'measures' to defend Iraq's unity and threatened to deprive …
SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images

A Baghdad court has reportedly issued arrest warrants for at least three Kurdish officials from northern Iraq’s autonomous region in an apparent attempt to coerce the Kurds to cancel the outcome of the overwhelming “yes” vote for independence.

Meanwhile, a Justice Ministry official from northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), denounced the Iraqi court’s warrants as “politically motivated,” stressing that Baghdad’s judicial system has no jurisdiction in Kurdistan, which is allegedly ruled by its own legal body.

“It was not known how Baghdad could carry out the arrest warrants as forces of the central government have no powers in KRG territory,” reports Reuters.

On Wednesday, Iraq issued the warrants against Hendreen Mohammed, the chairman of the KRG’s referendum commission, and two aides for violating an Iraqi court ruling that renders the independence vote “invalid” despite a vast majority of Kurds voting in favor of independence, adds the news agency.

Baghdad, in coordination with Ankara and Tehran, has dismissed the overwhelming “yes” to independence vote, threatening sanctions, international isolation, and even a military response if Kurds refuse to cancel the results of the referendum.

Reuters concedes:

The Iraqi central government has taken punitive measures over the independence vote, imposing sanctions on Kurdish banks and banning international flights into the Kurdish region.

Baghdad is also seeking to impose control over Kurdistan-based mobile phone operators and move their headquarters to the capital to raise pressure on KRG authorities.

On September 25, northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) held an independence vote, defying objections and threats of a coordinated military response from Baghdad, Iran, and Turkey.

Nevertheless, the KRG refuses to hand over control of its international crossings to Baghdad even after the Shiite-led government vowed to seize authority over the borders with the help of neighboring Iran and Turkey.

Although the United States opposes the KRG’s independence efforts, it has warned Iraq against taking any military action against its Kurdish region.

Citing concerns that the new independence talks will push separatism among Kurds within their borders, Syria has joined all other KRG neighbors — Iraq, Turkey, and Iran – in opposing the vote.

Reuters explains:

The referendum in Iraq’s Kurdish-controlled autonomous northern region has raised fears of broader conflict, as it was also opposed by neighboring Turkey and Iran, both with sizable Kurdish minorities, as well as a weakening of the U.S.-backed campaign against Islamic State militants

Iran-allied militias in Iraq — Popular Mobilization Forces/Units (PMF/PMU) or Hashd al-Shaabi —have threatened to march on oil-rich Kirkuk, a disputed area claimed by Baghdad and Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The Iran-backed Shiite militias have clashed with Kurdish Peshmerga troops in and around Kurdish-held territory in northern Iraq claimed by Baghdad and Erbil, the Iraqi Kurdistan capital.

Most confrontations between the two have taken place in oil-rich Kirkuk.

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