Erbil Plays Russian Roulette With Independence Vote

The KRG has set a date for an independence referendum in September, with the announcement coming just days after high-level talks in Russia secured preliminary deals with Rosneft. If anything, the timing implies the KRG is unlikely to push for independence immediately after the vote.

Nechirvan Barzani, Prime Minister in Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) attended the St Petersburg International Economic Forum earlier this month where he held talks with Russian leaders including President Vladimir Putin on 2 June. He returned with Russian commitments to develop the region’s oil sector and the confidence to pull the trigger on an independence referendum.

President Masoud Barzani – uncle of the prime minister – announced on 7 June that a referendum on the KRG seceding from Iraq will be held on 25 September. Shortly after the referendum, presidential and parliamentary elections are set to go ahead on 6 November.

Given the timing, it seems improbable that the two issues are not linked, raising the possibility that Russia backed the referendum announcement. Russia’s economic support for the economically fragile KRG, with the promise of more, certainly gives it considerable political leverage in Erbil. (CONTINUED - 1671 WORDS)