The Iranians are moving to solidify their hegemony in Syria and Iraq and, really, throughout the Middle East, and Tehran may use the recent Kurdish independence vote as the impetus to assert itself militarily in the region.

If it comes to pass, it will have been many years in the making — since the United States’ 2003 invasion of Iraq, which led to the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime, which fought a bloody 8-year campaign against Iran.

“Turkey and Iran must take necessary measures against the vote … and Baghdad should make serious decisions … serious and rapid decisions must be taken,” Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday after meeting Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Tehran, state TV reported.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the Kurdish referendum was a ploy by foreign countries, and that Tehran would not accept any change of borders, a position echoed by Erdogan, who vowed to work closely with Iran, which is not historically an ally of Turkey’s, to prevent the disintegration of Iraq and Syria.

Inbound notes:

This was always the danger of a U.S. intervention in the Middle East, going back 15 years. Unless America could ensure that Iraq would be a strong and independent power that would counterbalance Iran, Iran would seize the opportunity to dominate the Middle East. The Obama administration’s premature withdrawal from Iraq in 2011, together with the ongoing Syrian civil war, gave Tehran exactly what it needed to assert, as Khamenei did yesterday, that Iran has the right to decide whether or not the Kurds declare independence from Iraq. But there’s something else. Khamenei said America and Israel benefit from the Kurdish referendum, and accused America and its allies of trying to create “a new Israel in the region.” The reference to Israel is part of laying the groundwork to justify military intervention in Kurdistan, should it come to that.

Why it’s on our radar: Information in this article helps satisfy Priority Intelligence Requirement 4: What are the latest indicators of a new war in the Middle East?  Each week in our Strategic Intelligence Summary, we gauge the likelihood and scope of conflict with Russia, China, North Korea, and in the Middle East, and track the latest developments in each region.  Subscribe here to receive our premium intelligence products prepared by Intelligence and special operations veterans.