(JNS.org) The Kurdish region of Iraq commenced a historic referendum Monday, allowing some 5 million Iraqi Kurds to vote on the creation of an independent state of Kurdistan.
Kurdish leaders anticipate a result that will grant them a mandate to begin negotiations on secession from Iraq.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi condemned the vote as “unconstitutional” and warned that “measures” would be implemented to defend Iraqi unity in the event of secession being approved.
In response to the vote, Iran halted all flights to Iraq's Kurdish reigion, and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to impose sanctions against the Kurds. The Turkish military began carrying out drills near Turkey’s border with Iraq.
Leading up to the referendum, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in mid-September endorsed Kurdish statehood, making Israel the only nation to officially support the move.
Israel “supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to achieve their own state,” Netanyahu said in a statement during his recent visit to Argentina.
Although Israel has official relations with just three fellow Mideast countries—Turkey, Jordan and Egypt—it has long experienced warm ties with Iraq’s Kurds, the majority of whom are Sunni Muslims.