Northern Iraq’s election

The Northern Iraq referendum which was held yesterday met with strong reactions due to the concerns that it caused regarding the security of both Turkey and the region. Even though the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) was advised to turn back before it was too late by the world public opinion, it headed towards a non-binding and unrecognized election that is against the Iraqi constitution. As it has been spoken of for a long time, it is inevitable that this preference, which threatens the unity of Iraq, will also increase instability in the region…

What the so-called referendum, results of which are planned to be announced in a few days, will evolve into is a matter of discussion after the expected Yes vote emerges. In addition, it is also significant for the KRG to ascertain the obstacles which it immediately faced at the beginning of this process.


Primarily, particularly the attitude of the Baghdad government must be spoken of. The central government, which has been shouting that a Yes vote would not be recognized since the beginning, increased its threats only a few hours to the opening of the ballot boxes. Announcing that they have launched an investigation into the accounts of the KRG and leading authorities, the government stated that they were keeping the border crossings and airports under control.

As you might know, in addition to Turkey, the reactions coming from our neighbor Iran is severely increasing. Iran, which rapidly approved the demand of the Baghdad government regarding the air spaces, is closed to all flights coming from the KRG. Also, the military voice of the Tehran government, which has suspended flight clearance to the region, has been gradually increasing at the border.

Moreover, Baghdad advised the countries which cooperate with the regional government in Northern Iraq to cooperate with the federal government at border-crossings and oil trade…


As known, oil is the main income source for the regional government and exports of up to 700,000 barrels of oil a day is in question… At this point, it is very well known that Turkey is opening a vital door to Erbil with its pipeline going through Ceyhan. Even in this context, it cannot be denied that Turkey has been showing a friendly and strategically cooperative approach to develop the region in recent years.

In this context, it is obvious that Ankara has been with the Kurdish people in Iraq during their tough times. Now, as Turkey faces the threat of instability right across the border, it is in the position of putting necessary measures and sanctions on the table for its national security regarding the current risks… Re-evaluating the situation of the oil pipeline is among those measures.

And as President Erdoğan mentioned yesterday, if the oil valves are closed, it is certain that it will not lead to good consequences for Erbil.

As a matter of fact, we are talking about an economy which has not managed to stand on its own feet yet and unfortunately cannot even come close to diversification. The KRG, which has experienced a budget trauma and seen an increase in its poverty rate due to the geopolitical developments in the recent years, is in need of oil income to be able to normalize. Besides, the fact that Erbil bettered the oil prices in this context shows it has been looking forward to it for a long time.

Moreover, the normalization of Northern Iraq requires a more stable environment at the same time. However, such an environment where the KRG can evaluate young human resources and fix its finance by carrying out reforms unfortunately cannot be achieved with new uncertainties and risks caused by the referendum. All this foresight will bring about more troubles that the Kurdish people and regional community have to face.

In short, as seen from the election results, the KRG government, which was carrying out an economic reform plan a few years ago, is posing a new threat for the region now and cannot put the key requirements for its people on its agenda anymore.