A man carries the Kurdistan flags before the start of a rally calling to vote yes in the coming referendum, in Erbil, Iraq September 22, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
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Baghdad says the vote is illegal.Just a few months ago, the Iraqi army, Kurdish fighters, known as the peshmerga, and Iranian-backed Shiite paramilitary forces together defeated Daesh (ISIS) in Mosul.Iran and Turkey oppose Kurdish independence and Tehran-funded Shiite militias are gaining influence across Iraq.The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan said the KDP, who make up the coalition, were putting Kurds at risk because of strong opposition to the vote, including from key ally the United States.The peshmerga General Command in the KDP stronghold of Irbil accused Iran, a historical ally of the PUK, of helping Iraqi forces launch the offensive in the Kirkuk area.PUK leader Jalal Talabani died barely a week after the vote, adding more uncertainty for the Kurds.Iran, like Turkey, worries the vote will encourage its own Kurdish population to push for a homeland and has made no secret of its growing ambitions in Iraq.The most prominent Iranian figure in Iraq is Maj. Ali said Soleimani appeared in Kirkuk two nights before Iraqi security forces attacked.
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