Kurdistan may be forced to unilaterally declare independence from Iraq if the federal government in Baghdad insists on rejecting talks, according to Vahal Ali, director of communications in the office of Kurdish President Massoud Barzani. Ali also ridiculed threats of sending troops into contested Kirkuk, which troops were unable to protect from Islamic State militants, forcing Peshmerga forces to recapture it themselves in 2014.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called the independence referendum illegitimate. Former Deputy Prime Minister Hoshyar Zebari lamented that the U.S. stance appeared to be encouraging Baghdad to take a hard line. However, Representative Steve King of Iowa issued a statement supporting the Kurdish right to self-determination.
The Defense Ministry announced that it will forcibly take border checkpoints in coordination with Iran and Turkey. Those two countries also have Kurdish populations seeking greater autonomy.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım appeared to step back from earlier threats of starving the Kurds; he says the official stance of Turkey is not to harm civilians. Some analysts believe that Turkey is financially limited in how strongly it can react to the referendum.
Meanwhile, International flights into Kurdistan were halted late Friday. Iran also stopped trading in oil products. An official from the World Bank said the Kurds will likely be able to withstand a blockade thanks to adequate supplies of fuel, water, and arable land.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who has not issued a direct political statement in over two years, came out against the referendum, asking the Kurds to use constitutional means to achieve independence. Tthe aging cleric had stopped issuing statements as a protest against widespread corruption in government.
A statement from the U.S.-led Coalition against the Islamic State militants revealed that over 1,200 security personnel were killed and about 8,000 more were wounded during the nine-month long Battle of Mosul that ended in July. The Iraqi government had refused to give any solid figures during the battle.
At least 305 were killed and 17 were wounded:
One Turkish soldier was killed and four were wounded in clashes with Kurdistan Workers Party (P.K.K.) guerrillas in Kanimasi. Three P.K.K. members were killed. Although Turkish jets conducts raids frequently, it is unusual for ground troops to cross the border.
Four civilians were killed in a blast in Madaen.
In Baghdad, a bomb killed a liquor merchant. A tribal fighter and three family members were wounded in a hand grenade attack.
A bomb in Tarmiya, killed one person and wounded six more.
Airstrikes on Kubeisa left 45 militants dead.
Security forces killed six militants in Wadi Abu Jeir.
At Hamrin Lake, four militants were killed.
Two militants were killed west of Ramadi.
Read more by Margaret Griffis
- ISIS Attacks Truck Drivers at Border; 114 Killed in Iraq – February 21st, 2018
- U.S. Soldier Among Eight Killed in Iraq – February 20th, 2018
- ISIS Ambushes Shi’ite Militiamen near Kirkuk; 31 Killed in Iraq – February 19th, 2018
- ISIS Widows Sentenced to Death, Prison; Eight Killed in Iraq – February 18th, 2018
- Another Mass Grave Found South of Mosul; 116 Killed in Iraq – February 17th, 2018