Iranian-aligned Iraqi militant leaders continue to threaten violence against the Kurdish Regional Government (K.R.G.) over the independence vote on Monday. “Kurdistan’s referendum has no value and the resistance will take a series of measures to respond,” said Jafar al-Husseini, the spokesman of the Hezbollah Brigades, an Iranian-sponsored militia group within the Popular Mobilization Forces (P.M.F.). “Officials in Kurdistan are American tools in Iraq and the region. Americans and the Zionist enemy are behind the separatism scenario of the Kurdistan region. The real position of America will become clear once Baghdad take serious steps to confront the danger of division,” he added. The militia commander called K.R.G. President Masoud Barzani a “traitor” who “exploited” the emergence of the Islamic State to seize the oil-rich province of Kirkuk. He criticized the government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi for being “passive” toward Erbil in the past and urged Baghdad to act more decisively in the future.
Husseini expressed the hope that Turkey is sincere in its opposition to Iraqi Kurdistan’s push for independence, but emphasized that P.M.F. forces will not rely on Ankara. “We will ourselves block the creation of a regional government in the Iraqi Kurdistan.”
Husseini also accused the K.R.G. government of colluding with Israel. “We have evidence showing that Barzani is cooperating with Israel and this is a major treason.” He further emphasized that the “resistance front” is more powerful and united today and expressed the hope that the paramilitary forces will not have to fight the Peshmerga forces, which he said are separate from “Barzani bands.”
Separately, Mohammad Mahdi al-Bayati, a Turkman commander of Badr Organization, another Iranian-supported P.M.F. unit, called on the Baghdad government to accelerate efforts to fight the Kurdish secession.
Comment: Iran and its Iraqi proxies have threatened retaliatory measures against Erbil after the latter went ahead with an independence vote despite strong opposition from Tehran, Baghdad and the broader international community. Only Israel openly supported K.R.G.’s decision to hold the plebiscite.
In recent days, particularly after Monday’s vote, several Iranian-linked P.M.F. commanders have threatened violence. “The Iraqi government should act with determination to liberate Kirkuk from separatist paramilitaries before it is too late,” Harakat al-Nujaba, an Iranian-sponsored group fighting in Iraq and Syria, said in a statement as Iraqi Kurds were casting their ballots. Hashim al-Mousavi, the group’s spokesperson, further emphasized that the Iraqi forces should particularly focus on recapturing oil-rich regions within Kirkuk and not allow the Kurds to “steal Iraqis’ national wealth.” He said P.M.F. paramilitary forces are waiting for an order from the Baghdad government to seize Kirkuk.
Last week, Qais al-Khazali, the leader of another Iran-backed Iraqi militia group Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, accused the K.R.G. of executing an “Israeli project” by dividing Iraq and warned that his forces would not allow it to happen. "The enemies of Imam Hussein raised the flag of the homosexuals in Erbil at the wishes of the Israelis," he said in a speech to his followers. "Today while we celebrate by raising the banner of Imam Hussein in the south, there are those who raise the banner of his enemies in Erbil," he added. Denouncing the K.R.G.’s plan to hold an independence referendum, Khazali stressed that the project will not succeed. "The second state of Israel will not be obtained as long as Imam Hussein, peace be upon Him, lives in the conscience of every Iraqi."