Speed Reads

Kurdistan

Iraqi Kurdish leader Barzani to step down after independence push backfires

Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani said Sunday that he would step down as the semi-autonomous region's president on Nov. 1 after he pushed a Sept. 25 independence referendum that backfired. Barzani defended his decision to go ahead with the referendum despite warnings from Baghdad and threats from neighboring Turkey and Iran, which feared that the vote would reverberate in their own Kurdish populations. Barzani said the result of the vote, overwhelmingly favoring independence, "can never be erased," and that he believed the world would reward the Kurds with their own nation after their key role in defeating the Islamic State. The referendum, however, triggered a crisis in which Iraqi government forces seized oil-rich Kirkuk and other Kurdish-held areas also claimed by the central government. Dozens of protesters attacked the region's parliament building as Barzani announced his decision on TV.