Egypt's Sisi says independence for Iraq's Kurds would be 'catastrophic'

CAIRO Sun Jul 6, 2014 2:33pm EDT

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi speaks during a joint news conference with Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir (not seen) in Khartoum June 27, 2014. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi speaks during a joint news conference with Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir (not seen) in Khartoum June 27, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Sunday a referendum on the independence of Iraq's Kurdish region would lead to a "catastrophic" break up of the country, which is facing an onslaught by Sunni Islamist militants.

The comments from Sisi, leader of the most populous Arab nation, indicate a growing fear in the region that the division of Iraq could further empower the insurgents who have declared a "caliphate" on land seized in Iraq and neighboring Syria.

"The referendum that the Kurds are asking for now is in reality no more than the start of a catastrophic division of Iraq into smaller rival states," Egypt's MENA news agency quoted Sisi as saying during a meeting with local journalists.

The president of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish north, Massoud Barzani, asked the region's parliament on Thursday to prepare the way for a referendum on independence.

Iraq's five million Kurds, who have ruled themselves in relative peace since the 1990s, have expanded their territory by up to 40 percent in recent weeks as the Sunni Islamist militants seized vast stretches of western and northern Iraq.

Egypt, a traditionally regional diplomatic heavy weight, has been embroiled in domestic turmoil for three years since a 2011 uprising ousted autocratic President Hosni Mubarak.

Sisi said he warned the United States and Europe about the ambitions of the Islamic State militants, which have shortened their name from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

"ISIL had a plan to take over Egypt," Sisi said. "I had warned the United States and Europe from providing any aid to them and told them they will come out of Syria to target Iraq then Jordan then Saudi Arabia."

Sisi, Egypt's former army chief, last year orchestrated the ouster of the state's Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, who was elected in a free vote, in reaction to mass protests against his rule.

Sisi's interim government that ruled until his election had cracked down on Islamists. Thousands of Islamist activists and members in Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood group have been jailed since Mursi's ouster last July and hundreds of street protesters were killed.

The Muslim Brotherhood group, the state's oldest and most organized movement, is now banned and declared a terrorist organization.

(Reporting by Yasmine Saleh; Editing by Sophie Hares)

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Comments (4)
Doc62 wrote:
Gen Sisi is correct. Mursi had the same plans for Egypt as Bagdadi has for Iraq. Difference is Mursi is a sheep in wolf’s clothing. Sharia law would create a poor, ignorant and violent nation, where murder and archaic torture is allowed. Woman have no place, other than cleaning and child care.
Can’t blame the Kurds for wanting autonomy. They are not Muslims. Iraq’s gov’t has always screwed them. They want peace and their share of oil revenue. Probably the safest place in Iraq.

Jul 06, 2014 2:56pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
REnninga wrote:
Just what is needed in the Middle East:
The newest “elected” leader, on his way to being the newest authoritarian dictator, who came to power by orchestrating a military coup to overthrow the previous elected leader, and to jail that leader and all of his supporters, and turn a blind eye to their summary trials and the meting-out of mass death sentences, … now decides to interfere in the internal socio-political affairs of another nearby country in the region.

Great idea, what could possibly go wrong?

Jul 06, 2014 6:30pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
REnninga wrote:
@Doc62 wrote: “…Can’t blame the Kurds for wanting autonomy. They are not Muslims.”

I’m uncertain what you mean by that statement? It is factually incorrect.
The dominant religion of Iraqi Kurdistan is Islam, adhered to by the majority of its inhabitants. These include Kurds, Iraqi Turkmen, and Arabs, belonging primarily to the Shafi’i Sunni branch of Islam.
The largest minority religion is the Shia branch of Islam

Other minority religions in Iraqi Kurdistan are Christianity (primarily among the Assyrians), and Yezidism. There and also small tribal minorities who follow the Yarsan, Mandean and Shabaki religions.

Jul 06, 2014 6:52pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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