Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, center, attends a session of the Iraqi Parliament, in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)
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Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi faced calls to take measures ranging from an economic blockade to military action after Kurds voted in a referendum in support of independence.The referendum was approved by more than 92 percent of voters Wednesday, posing one of the biggest challenges to Abadi as he tries to keep Iraq together.While the use of these paramilitary groups against the Kurds would spare the army from having to fight against fellow Iraqis, there are risks for Abadi.Tensions are already high between Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Shiite paramilitary forces, even though they cooperated in the fight against Daesh. If the Shiite paramilitaries and Kurds clash, it will mean all-out war between two of the best fighting forces in Iraq, a U.S. ally and OPEC oil producer with an economy shattered by conflict.One possibility is a blockade of Kurdish areas, something that Vahal Ali said would also harm the Baghdad government.Kurdish oil sales without the consent of the government have angered Iraqi leaders. But placing an economic stranglehold on the Kurds may have only limited success for Baghdad if Turkey continues to trade with the north. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Iraqi Kurds would go hungry if his country halts the flow of goods and oil across the border with northern Iraq.
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