Leading Iraqi cleric Sadr urges Kurdistan to call off independence referendum

Leading Iraqi cleric Sadr urges Kurdistan to call off independence referendum
Iraq's opposition leader and influential Shia cleric Sadr has urged Kurdistan's President Barzani to call off September's referendum to determine whether the Kurdish region should split from Iraq.
2 min read
05 July, 2017
Moqtada al-Sadr said: "There is one Iraq for everyone" [AFP]
Outspoken Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has called upon Kurdistan's Regional Government to halt plans to hold an independence referendum.

The opposition leader called upon KRG president Masoud Barzani to "call off the secession referendum… at least as a first step towards cancelling it in the future".

He urged the KRG to backtrack on the plans "especially with the country at the verge of liberating Mosul", referring to Iraqi forces' attempts to expel Islamic State militants from the country's second largest city.

"There is one Iraq for everyone," Sadr said. "It does not discriminate against any Iraqi as long as they love his/her country and do not operate with foreign agendas."

Barzani announced in June that there would be a public vote, slated for September 25, to determine whether the Kurdish region would split from Iraq and form an independent nation.

Kurdistan has reiterated the referendum would not be binding, but Baghdad has argued the move was untimely as the country struggles to drive out IS militants from their last stronghold.

"The federal government will not partake, support or fund the referendum on the Kurdish region's independence from Iraq," Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement last month.

"I think the referendum will add more problems to the region, especially that it is not totally agreed upon by the Kurds themselves. It could further complicate the region's currently strained economy after independence."

The US has also cautioned the vote could distract from the fight against IS, with Iran and Turkey also voicing opposition to the referendum.

Kurdistan gained autonomous governance based on the 2005 constitution, but is still considered a part of Iraq. The region was created in 1970 based on an agreement with the Iraqi government, ending years of fierce fighting.