Iraq bans Israeli flags after Kurds wave them at independence rallies

The Iraqi parliament voted on Tuesday to criminalize the flying of Israeli flags after the banners were held aloft at a number of Kurdish independence rallies ahead of a referendum in September.

The vote to ban the flags from public spaces came at the request of Ammar al-Hakim, the Shiite leader of the Citizen Bloc, the Iraqi news agency AlSumaria reported.

Israel has been among the only countries to openly support an independent Kurdish state, and many Kurds have welcomed the support, drawing accusations from Arab leaders that the referendum was a Zionist plot.

Turkey fiercely opposed the referendum and has threatened sanctions against the region, reflecting its worries about its own sizable Kurdish minority.

Prime Minister Benjamin rejected claims that Israel was in any way involved in the referendum.Iran and Iraq’s central government in Baghdad also expressed alarm over the referendum and have refused to recognize its validity.

“I understand why those who support Hamas want to see the Mossad in every uncomfortable place, but Israel had no part in the referendum of the Kurdish people, apart from the deep, natural, longstanding sympathy of the people of Israel for the Kurdish people and their yearnings,” he said earlier in October.

Iraq has called for the cancellation of the results of the vote, which saw a massive “yes” for independence, as a precondition for any talks.

Baghdad also seized large areas of territory that Kurdish forces had captured over the years beyond the borders of the autonomous region.

By losing the huge oil fields there, Kurdistan has seen the possibility of an economically viable state disappear, experts say.

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