Region Moves to Isolate Iraqi Kurdistan as Votes Are Counted

Erdogan Threatens to Cut Off Kurds' Oil Pipeline

Monday’s referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan closed with high turnout, and an expectation of an overwhelming victory for the pro-secession vote. The neighbors of the soon-to-be nation are already turning on the Kurds, likely fearing spillover ambitions among their own Kurdish minorities.

Iraq’s central government itself forbade the vote, and is demanding that the Kurds surrender all of their airports and border crossings. Syria ruled out recognizing the vote, and Iran has closed the border with Kurdistan.

With questions about what parts of Iraq will be seceding, the Iraqi parliament also voted to deploy ground troops into the Kirkuk Province and well as other disputed areas. The move aims to prevent the Kurds taking more of Iraq with them, but also risks a military confrontation with the Peshmerga.

Perhaps the biggest threats came from Turkey, however. President Erdogan waned that Turkey “has the tap” on Iraqi Kurdistan’s oil pipeline, and could cut off all their oil exports if they wanted to.

Turkey has the most to fear from an independent Kurdistan, as they’ve been fighting a war for decades against their own Kurdish minority trying to prevent a similar secession. At the same time, cutting off oil exports through Iraq would be a major step, threatening oil exports from the region.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.