The task of diplomacy falls on the shoulders of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who addressed Iranian parliament members in a closed-door meeting Oct. 11 to discuss three main issues: Trump’s policy toward the IRGC and the nuclear deal, the Syrian conflict and the referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan. The message that came out of the meeting for the Kurds was that Iran is the “closest friend” of Iraqi Kurds and that they should work together.
As such, it appears that while Iran may not be happy with the way the Kurds decided to go ahead with the referendum, it has come around to living with the result so long as the Kurds do not take further steps toward independence. Iran wants to maintain its historical ties with Iraqi Kurds, and its current nonhostile approach — despite the bellicose rhetoric before the referendum — suggests that officials in Tehran have taken into account what are seen as Trump’s intentions in Iraqi Kurdistan, be they real or imagined.
Thus, it is difficult to know how Iran might have reacted to the Kurdistan referendum had the Americans not returned to Iraq in the aftermath of the June 2014 IS blitzkrieg across northern Iraq. However, in the past — both in Iraq and Afghanistan — Iran has done everything possible to avoid a direct confrontation with the American forces. In the words of Zarif, “No party or country need fear our missiles, or indeed any Iranian military capability, unless it intends to attack our territory or foment trouble through terrorist attacks on our soil.”