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Iran Steps Up Pressure on Iraqi Kurds to Halt Referendum
By Fazel Hawramy

Iran and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have become entangled in a war of words as the referendum on Iraqi Kurdistan's independence nears. Both sides are now making veiled threats, which -- if they materialize -- could have serious consequences on stability in the region.

The Iranians, whether under the shah or the Islamic Republic, have worked hand in glove with the Kurds to undermine the Iraqi central government's authority and thus should not be expected to be adamant about preserving the authority of the state at any cost.

Yet, according to Nazim Dabagh, the KRG representative in Iran, the situation right now is tense. Dabagh, who accompanied a delegation from his party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), in meetings July 17 with Iranian officials, told Al-Monitor, "The Iranians say, 'We are for the territorial integrity of Iraq and we will do everything to preserve it.'" Dabagh is well-versed in Iranian politics, having served as a Kurdish representative in Tehran for most of the last four decades. "I personally think that holding the referendum without the approval of Baghdad and the neighboring countries, without a doubt, will cause problems." When pushed on what kind of problems Iran could cause, Dabagh -- who was speaking via telephone from Tehran -- did not elaborate.

Read the full story here.

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