Kurds to hold vote
The parliament of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region approved a plan yesterday to hold a referendum on independence on September 25, ignoring opposition from Baghdad and the wider region, as well as concerns that the vote could spark fresh conflict. The White House publicly called for the first time on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), based in Erbil in northern Iraq, to cancel the vote. The US has provided critical military aid to the KRG’s fight against Islamic State, and the US and other Western powers fear that increased tensions between Baghdad and the Kurds will distract from the war on Isis militants who still occupy parts of Iraq and Syria. Iraq’s neighbours Iran and Turkey also oppose the vote, fearing that an independent Kurdish state could fuel separatism among their own Kurdish populations. Meanwhile, Iranian-backed Iraqi Shi’ite paramilitary groups have threatened to dislodge Kurdish forces from the Kirkuk region, which is due to take part in the referendum.