A senior Iranian military commander says Iran and Iraq will hold joint military exercises along their border with the Kurdistan region in the coming days in line with Tehran's policy to support Baghdad’s central government, after the recent independence referendum in the semi-autonomous region.
“The joint maneuver, [dubbed] Eqtedar (Strength), will be held by Iran’s Armed Forces and units of the Iraqi army along the two countries’ joint borders,” Deputy Chief of Staff of Iran's Armed Forces Brigadier General Massoud Jazayeri said on Saturday.
In defiance of Iraq’s stiff opposition, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) held a non-binding referendum on September 25 on secession from the central government in Baghdad.
Official results showed 92.73 percent of voters backed the secession. Turnout was put at 72.61 percent.
Major regional and international parties have voiced serious concern over the secessionist move, saying it would compound the problems of the country, which is already busy with counterterrorism operations against Daesh.
Jazayeri further said high-ranking commanders of Iran’s Armed Forces held a meeting, chaired by Chairman of the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Baqeri, earlier in the day to discuss the Iraqi government’s official requests from Tehran in the wake of the referendum.
He added that the meeting was “in line with the declared policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran to help safeguard Iraq’s solidarity and territorial integrity and following a request by the central Iraqi government for cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran on the establishment of the central government’s authority on the two countries’ border terminals.”
Jazayeri emphasized that participants at the meeting once again stressed the importance of safeguarding Iraq’s territorial integrity and voiced their opposition to the “illegal” referendum held in the northern Kurdistan region.
They also adopted the “necessary decisions to establish security along borders and receive forces of the Iraqi central government for deployment at border posts,” he added.
The Saturday meeting was held three days after the chief of staff of the Iranian Armed Forces and his Iraqi counterpart Major General Othman al-Ghanmi held talks in Tehran.
The issue of terrorism, the Kurdish independence vote and matters of mutual interest were among the major topics discussed in the Wednesday meeting between the military brass of Iran and Iraq.
Iran and Turkey have opposed the Kurdish referendum in Iraq, warning that the controversial vote could lead to further instability in the entire Middle East, a region already ravaged with numerous conflicts and terror threats.