Forces close to the de facto border between Iraq and Kurdistan have been moved from Hawija, southwest of Kirkuk, to Anbar province. The move by the US-led global coalition is important in reassuring the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) that Baghdad is not seeking to maintain the unity of Iraq by force. On Wednesday the KRG accused the Iraqi government of preparing to attack the region in retaliation for the area’s recent vote in favour of secession. These fears are justified as within days of the Kurdish referendum on independence, Iraqi forces conducted joint military exercises with Turkey and Iran. But constant state of tension points to a larger question: will Iraqi forces attack Kurdistan?
Iraq is going to change. After repeated calls from governments around the world to postpone the vote, Iraqi Kurds conducted a referendum on independence and overwhelmingly backed the creation of a new state. With all precincts reporting, over 92% of residents in Iraqi Kurdistan voted to support the proposition with only 7% of voters backing continuing as part of Iraq. Overall turnout was around 72%. Although this exercise in democracy should be seen as a positive development, the other players in Middle Eastern geopolitics are not respecting the result and are now trying to coerce Kurds into remaining within Iraq.
For a number of months I’ve been covering the ongoing situation in Kurdistan both in terms of the fight against ISIS and in regard to their desire for an independent nation-state. Opponents of the independence referendum on 25th September have sought to conflate these two issues and argue that an independent Kurdistan would only strengthen ISIS’ hand. This is patently false as a strong Kurdish state would challenge Saudi Arabia’s influence in the region therefore undermining some of the ideological foundations of groups like ISIS. Further, if Turkey continued to bomb Kurdish forces and civilians Erbil could turn to international institutions like the UN thus forcing hostile powers to refocus on the fight against ISIS. It appears, however, that the Iraqi government in Baghdad has a different view.
On 25th September the people of Iraqi Kurdistan will vote on whether or not to secede from Iraq and become an independent nation-state. Unsurprisingly this has caused much consternation in both Baghdad and Ankara however analysts are nonetheless expecting a clear majority of Kurds to vote for independence. The problem facing the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has been one of legitimacy as the Iraqi government have refused to legally permit a referendum from taking place, and therefore it would be unclear as to how the international community would react. This week the KRG and international Kurdish liberation movement received a boost from the man seeking to become Germany’s next Chancellor.
Countries around the world have remained steadfast in their commitment to reducing carbon emissions and the two most populated countries are leading by example. India and China have long been some of the highest polluting states however they are now using the wealth that they have created in recent years to invest in sustainable growth. Specifically these countries have decided to become world leaders in renewable energy generation and new statistics out in the last few weeks indicate how seriously India and China are taking the transition to clean electricity.
Coal India is the largest coal mining company in the world and produces 82% of India’s coal every single year. However due to the declining cost of solar power in India the company has announced that 37 mines are going to close on the grounds that they are “financially unviable”. This round of closures amounts to Coal India closing around 9% of the total number of mines that the company operates, and as a result will significantly reduce the amount of coal being extracted per annum. The important aspect of this development, and the growing commercial trend, is that companies are beginning to notice that fossil fuel extraction is, in many cases, more costly than investing in green technology. This needs to be promoted and celebrated as much as possible.
Iraqi Kurdistan is an autonomous region in the north-east of the country and has a somewhat fractured relationship with the government in Baghdad. Relations between the two authorities is much better than under Saddam Hussein, although this is a very low bar, but there remains a perception in Erbil that the Iraqi central government is both corrupt and incompetent. It is this perception that last week resulted in leading politicians announcing that the region would hold a referendum on independence from Iraq. This development is something that I have long argued for and could be a game-changer for the Middle East.