Iran deployed a dozen tanks supported by artillery at its border with Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region on Monday, a Kurdish official said, adding that the move was a dangerous escalation in the crisis triggered by Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence vote.
“The tanks can be seen from the Kurdish side,” an official from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) security council told Reuters, adding that the move was a “dangerous escalation.”
Iraq’s Kurds overwhelmingly voted for independence in a referendum held one week ago, defying the central government in Baghdad as well as neighboring Turkey and Iran, which fear Kurdish separatism within their own borders.
The deployment at the Parviz Khan border point on Monday was part of joint military drills conducted by the Iranian and the Iraqi armed forces in response to the referendum, state media in Tehran said. The exercises began last Sunday, according to Iran’s Mehr news agency.
The KRG says it plans to use the referendum’s result as a mandate to negotiate the peaceful secession of the Kurdish region through talks with Baghdad.
KRG President Masoud Barzani said on Monday it was legitimate to hold the vote in the Kurdish areas, including in the multi-ethnic oil city of Kirkuk, also claimed by Baghdad.
“Kirkuk is a Kurdistani city which should become an example for the coexistence of nations and religions,” he said during a visit to Kirkuk.