Exclusive: Iraq’s Kurdish leader tells the Guardian why the independence vote is so vital, and how he will defy global opposition

Iraq’s Kurdish leader, Masoud Barzani, is on the edge of defying overwhelming international opposition to take the Kurds to a landmark referendum he says will end the region’s role in a broken, sectarian Iraq, and pave the way to independence.

Speaking days before the ballot, scheduled for Monday, Barzani said the majority of the global community had underestimated the determination of the Kurds. It had also, he claimed, made a miscalculation in believing that his intention to hold the ballot was a “pressure card” designed to draw concessions, rather than a tangible first step towards a long-held goal of sovereignty.

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