File - In this Sept. 18, 2016 photo released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Revolutionary Guard Gen. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP, File)
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There are no winners among Iraq's Kurds, just weeks after Kurdish President Massoud Barzani gambled away his people's autonomy in a controversial defiant independence referendum.A senior Iranian official said Tehran had advised Barzani against the referendum but he would not listen.The referendum has drawn the powerful Iranian commander even closer to Kurdish politics, and shown how far Iran's reach has extended beyond the central government in Baghdad.Ahead of the vote, Soleimani warned Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq to withdraw their forces from Kirkuk or face a "fiery" onslaught by Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed fighters, according to Kurdish and Iraqi officials.The warning prompted Kurdish peshmerga fighters to withdraw from most areas, and deepened the split between Barzani's power base in Irbil and the rival Talabani clan in Sulaimaniyah, long allied with Iran."We all have seen the problems Iranian meddling has caused in other parts of Iraq, including mainly Sunni areas, and if the same amount of interference is repeated in Kurdish areas, then the worst is coming and instability will prevail".Addressing his people, demoralized by humiliating territorial defeats, Barzani said Sunday that he would step down, just one month after the vote he championed in the face of both regional and international opposition.The vote and its ensuing political and military retribution from Baghdad – backed by Iran and Turkey – demolished the position of relative strength the Kurds had enjoyed for several years.
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