The event went forward despite vigorous Iranian and Turkish opposition. Although many countries opposed the referendum at this stage, it was quite clear that Turkey and Iran were leading the more aggressive approach against the referendum. Several reports came out documenting Iranian and Turkish action to jointly resist the referendum. presstv reported on telephone conversations at the highest level, and the Iranian chief of staff three day visit to Turkey was reported extensively in this context (see for instance rudaw).
A few articles, like the nytimes piece titled “For Iraq’s long suffering Kurds, independence beckons”, took a positive approach to the referendum, but most of the articles reported factually, without really taking sides. Although there were many countries opposed to the referendum, a few writers focused on the Iranian angle, like the Economist titled Iran strongly opposed to Kurdish independence, al-monitor piece titled Iran steps up pressure on Iraqi Kurds to halt referendum and dailystar. The Iranian angle was of special importance, due to the perceived threat or risk of escalation. alarabiya article discussed “the brutal repression of Kurds in Iran”, and aljazeera reported on tensions building along Iraq-Iran border, both hinting to possible military or other conflict. What is really lacking in the press, especially in retrospect, are the lessons to be learnt from this event, especially in the Iranian context.
One of the lessons is that the Kurds were not daunted by the Iranian threats. They played their game to the end and survived. If Iran thought that their threats were enough to halt the process, they were proven wrong. Perhaps this is a lesson that despite Iran’s vast military activism, the Kurds were not deterred by Iran.
It also became clear that Iran’s support of self-determination in other places, is self-serving, and not a principled stand. In February 1979, PLO chairman Yassir Arafat was invited to Tehran as the first foreign “head of state” to visit them. Since then, the Islamic Republic has consistently supported the self determination of the Palestinians, pouring billions of dollars in this effort. As reported in newsweek and sputniknews, the Hamas hardline leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, revealed that Iran has become the largest backer of the Hamas, financially and militarily. One could think that Iran cares for “self-determination” of minorities, and therefore takes up the Palestinian cause. The Kurdish event demonstrates that the Iranian support of the Palestinians is more out of hatred to Israel and the west, and less from positive concern for minorities. Even though the Kurds fought side by side against ISIS, they were still not worthy in Iran’s eyes. In the Palestinian context, Iran hates Israel and the west more than the Palestinians.