Turkish, Iranian and Iraqi Leaders Decry Kurdish Independence Vote as Creation of ‘Second Israel,’ Warn ‘Waving Israeli Flags Won’t Save You’
The anti-Kurdish alliance of Turkey, Iran and Iraq has stepped up its accusation that Monday’s referendum on independence — in which more than 90 percent of voters answered in the affirmative — was the fruit of a conspiracy hatched between Israeli and Kurdish leaders to create a “second Israel” in the Middle East.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who branded the referendum as “treachery” on Tuesday, said the vote would likely result in a new “ethnic war.” He warned that Ankara would break off diplomatic relations with Israel if the Jewish state refused to withdraw its support for Kurdish independence. Turkey broke relations with Israel in 2010 following the attempt by an Istanbul-based Islamist organization to break the blockade of Gaza, restoring them only last year.
“Who will recognize your independence? Israel,” Erdogan mocked during a speech in Ankara on Tuesday.
“The world is not about Israel,” Erdogan — who has made numerous antisemitic remarks during the last decade — continued. “You should know that the waving of Israeli flags there will not save you,” he added, in a reference to the sight of Israeli flags flying alongside Kurdish flags at independence rallies in Erbil and other Kurdish cities.
Antisemitic rhetoric opposing the Kurdish referendum has been a staple feature of the Turkish press in recent weeks, and has been eagerly picked up by Iran as well.
On Tuesday, Ali Akbar Velayati — a former Iranian foreign minister who now serves as a senior adviser to the country’s “supreme leader,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — charged Kurdish President Masoud Barzani with being the lynchpin of an Israeli plot to destabilize the Islamic world.
“Barzani is a middleman for Zionists whose goal is to disintegrate Islamic countries,” Velayati said in Tehran, adding that like Turkey, Iran would not allow a “second Israel” to be created in the region. Maj- Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi of the Islamic Republic’s armed forces echoed Velayati’s comments, describing the referendum as a “US-Israeli plot” that would “result in the escalation of tensions and crisis in the region.”
Meanwhile, politicians in Iraq — whose Shia-dominated government increasingly functions as a proxy of Tehran — joined in with the chorus on Tuesday, with one top official attacking Kurdish leaders as “racists.”
“The step that was taken by some racists in Kurdistan will bring instability to the entire region for years to come,” Mowaffak al-Rubaie, an MP from the ruling Shia National Alliance, told reporters in the Iraqi parliament, in remarks reported by Kurdish outlet Rudaw.
“The representatives of such efforts had established the State of Israel in 1948,” al-Rubaie said. He added that a number of Iraqi MPs were presently collecting signatures to oust Iraq’s Kurdish president, Fuad Masum, for failing to protect Iraq’s territorial integrity.
Although Israel was the only country to openly support the Kurdish referendum, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly issued instructions on Monday forbidding any government officials from speaking further about the vote. One anonymous Israeli official told Reuters news agency that the question of Kurdish independence had become “too sensitive.”
One source of pressure on the Israelis may have been the Trump administration itself, which has cited many of the same strategic rationales for opposing Kurdish independence as have Turkey and Iran.
In a statement notable for the absence of any mention of the critical role played by Kurdish fighters in combating ISIS, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert announced on Monday that the US was “deeply disappointed that the Kurdistan Regional Government decided to conduct today a unilateral referendum on independence.”
“The United States’ historic relationship with the people of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region will not change in light of today’s non-binding referendum, but we believe this step will increase instability and hardships for the Kurdistan region and its people,” Nauert said.