Threats from Iraq, Turkey and Iran before Kurdish Referendum
Days before the historic outcome of the Kurdish referendum, Turkey, Iran and Iraq issued stern warnings and threats: Turkey and Iran carried out military exercises near Kurdistan; Baghdad demanded that the Kurdish government surrender control of its two international airports or face a shutdown of all international flights, and also threatened to send troops to take over oil fields in the region; Turkey’s Erdogan threatened military and economic retaliation and Iran stopped all flights on Sunday between Iran and two of Kurdistan’s international airports.
Turkey and Iran fear that the referendum would foment unrest among their Kurdish minorities.
93 Percent Voted Yes for Independence in Kurdish Referendum
On Wednesday, Iraqi Kurds delivered an overwhelming “yes” vote for independence, despite repeated warnings from Baghdad, Turkey, and Iran and international concern over a potential regional conflict.
The result of the referendum is non-binding, and the Iraqi central government rejects it as illegal.
Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani said in a televised address that the outcome of the referendum would not lead to an immediate separation from Iraq. Instead, he hopes that it would pave the way for dialogue with the central government.
At Last, Saudi Women Get to Drive
In a royal decree issued on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman ordered the ban on female drivers to come to an end by June 2018. Prior to this, Saudi Arabia had been the only country in the world to ban women from driving.
The new decree stipulates that women will be allowed to drive “in accordance with the Islamic laws.”
Social media saw an array of mixed responses – from euphoria to sarcasm – noting that Saudi women are still under male guardianship and continue to face a host of other restrictions.
Interpol Approves Membership for State of Palestine
In a secret ballot in China, international police organisation Interpol voted to admit Palestine as a full member despite persistent lobbying by Israel. Exceeding the two-thirds requirement, Palestinian membership was approved 75 to 24 votes with 34 abstentions.
Just last year, Israel successfully blocked Palestine’s attempt to join Interpol.
ISIS Releases New Recording of Leader al-Baghdadi
On Thursday, the Islamic State released a 46-minute audio recording of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Al-Baghdadi was rumoured to have died in a Russian airstrike – however, claims of his death have been treated with scepticism by the US.
Analysts say Al-Baghdadi’s supposed survival will give some morale boost to ISIS fighters who are clinging on to remnants of their declining caliphate.