MESOP NEW FOCUS : Tehran Eases Pressure on Iraqi Kurdistan

By Scott Lucas – October 31, 2017  – Iran has eased pressure on Iraqi Kurdistan, following a deal for Iraqi forces to control Kirkuk and nearby oilfields and then the departure of Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani.The head of the Iranian Armed Forces, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Baqeri (pictured), said on Monday, “Border restrictions between Iran and the Iraqi Kurdistan Region will be lifted soon and within the next few days.”

Iran imposed the restrictions and closed its airspace as the Kurdish region held an independence referendum on September 25, in which almost 93% of voters support the break from Iraq.

But three weeks later, the Iraqi Government’s forces moved into the disputed, oil-rich city of Kirkuk, the town of Sinjar, and other parts of Kurdistan. Clashes continue in some areas, including near pipelines.

The withdrawal of Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga was preceded by three visits by Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, including talks with leaders of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

See Iran’s Ultimatum to Iraqi Kurds — “Leave Kirkuk”

On Saturday, Barzani, President since 2005 of the Kurdish Regional Government and head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, announced that he will step down on November 1 after the turn of events. Baqeri marked the occasion yesterday by saying that if Kurdistan had implemented the plan to break away from Iraq, the region would have faced “war and long-term bloodshed”.