By Ozcan Yildirim
Turkey must pursue a comprehensive deterrence policy that includes the use of military force following Monday's controversial referendum in northern Iraq, a Turkish opposition party leader said.
On Monday, Iraqis in areas held by the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) -- and in a handful of territories disputed between Erbil and Baghdad – began voting to decide whether to secede from Iraq.
Along with Baghdad, Turkey, the U.S., Iran and the UN have all spoken out against the poll, saying it will only distract from the ongoing fight against Daesh and further destabilize the region.
In a written statement released from capital Ankara, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli said: "It has become inevitable for Turkey to pursue an effective and comprehensive deterrence policy that includes the use of military force, and it has become inevitable for them to progressively determine coercive measures and gradually implement them.
"This is a national security issue that cannot be underestimated by Turkey and I want to repeat that the Nationalist Movement Party will stand with the government in its measures that it will take with determination in this regard."
Bahceli said the referendum brings a "message of a dark period" in the region, accusing the head of the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government Masoud Barzani of starting an “adventurous journey” that would end up with him “paying a heavy price and disappointment”.
"He [Barzani] will see how his childhood dream will turn into a nightmare," the Turkish opposition party leader added.
He called the poll a “piracy referendum” that had no legal and political legitimacy, adding it is “void and condemned to stay on paper only".
Earlier Monday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey will take political, economic, commercial and security steps against the KRG.
Regardless of the results, the referendum, which is not in conformity with the current law in Iraq, is null and void for us, we call it illegitimate,” Erdogan said in Istanbul.
Iraq’s central government has threatened to intervene militarily if the vote leads to violence.
Barzani, however, said a Yes vote would not result in an automatic declaration of independence but would simply lead to further negotiations with Baghdad.