Iranian and Iraqi central government forces are to hold joint military exercises near their borders, Iran’s state television reported on Saturday, as part of Tehran’s effort to support Baghdad after the Kurdish independence referendum on Monday.
State television quoted a military spokesman as saying the decision to hold the war games was taken at a meeting on Saturday of Iranian military commanders which also “agreed on measures to establish border security and receive Iraqi forces that are to be stationed at border posts”.
The Saturday report by Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency quotes Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, spokesman for Iran’s joint armed forces staff, as saying the maneuver will be held in the coming days in northwest Iran near the Iraqi Kurdish region border.
“This meeting was in line with Iran’s declared policies of respect for the integrity and preservation of the territorial integrity of Iraq and the request by the Iraqi government for Iran’s cooperation for the establishment of central government authority on Iran-Iraq border terminals,” the spokesman added.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has refused to hand over control of its border crossings to the Iraqi government, as demanded by Iraq, Iran and Turkey in retaliation for the independence referendum.
Iran, which has condemned the referendum as illegal, on Friday banned the transportation of refined oil products by Iranian companies to and from Iraqi Kurdistan.
Iran also closed its borders and stopped flights to Iraqi Kurdistan airports .
Ahead of the vote, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard launched a military exercise in the same region.
Baghdad to take border control
Meanwhile, Iraq’s military is preparing to take control of the international borders of the northern Kurdish region.
The preparations are part of the central government’s stepped-up efforts to isolate the Kurds following their vote on independence earlier this week.
They come a day after Iraq instituted a flight ban that halted all international flights from servicing the territory’s airports.
Iraqi troops now in Turkey and Iran were expected to start enforcing control over the border crossings out of the Kurdish region on Saturday morning. The Iraqi Defence Ministry did not indicate whether Iraqi forces were to move toward the external border posts controlled by the KRG from the Iranian and Turkish side.