By Ibrahim Salih
Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi on Monday ordered security forces to shield Iraqis in areas under the control of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) against “threat and coercion”.
In a televised statement, al-Abadi said he ordered security agencies “to protect citizens from threats and coercion they are subject to in the KRG-held areas”.
The move comes as voters in the KRG-held areas, including disputed areas between Baghdad and Erbil, voted on Monday in a referendum on whether to secede from Iraq.
It remains unclear how the order will be implemented on the ground given that the Kurdish Peshmerga forces are only deployed in the KRG-held areas since the Iraqi army withdrew from there in 2014 against Daesh militants.
Baghdad, Turkey, Iran, the U.S., and the UN have all spoken out against the poll, saying it would distract from the ongoing fight against Daesh and further destabilize the region.
Turkey on Monday announced it would regard the results of the Kurdish referendum as “null and void” and Iraq’s central government has threatened to intervene militarily if the vote leads to violence.
KRG President Masoud Barzani has said a “Yes” win would not result in an automatic declaration of independence but would simply lead to further negotiations with Baghdad.