By Kenneth Rosen—The Atlantic—September 25, 2017—
ERBIL—When the Islamic State was ousted from Mosul in July, it was thanks to the joint efforts of Iraqi and Kurdish forces. Many expected that their cooperation would spur a nationwide healing process, in which sectarian and ethnic divides between Sunni and Shia, Arab and Kurd, might be bridged. But such hopes were soon dashed by Massoud Barzani, the Iraqi Kurdish leader. After the liberation of Mosul, Barzani, emboldened by the success of his peshmerga forces against ISIS, announced that the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan in northern Iraq would hold an independence referendum on September 25th.
Ahead of the referendum Monday, Iranian airspace was closed to flights originating and arriving in the Kurdistan region, according to airport officials; Turkish tanks conducted exercises on the country’s southern border with Iraq; on a recent visit, police forces backed by Baghdad had withdrawn from the city of Kirkuk as a peshmerga special-operations force, the Commando Battalion of the Zeravani Brigade, took up posts around the city.