Mr Karadaghi says that the Baghdad government has made a mistake in “denouncing the referendum as a sort of Frankenstein”, which will inevitably produce violence and war.

He believes that this overreaction on the part of Baghdad and foreign powers serves only to anger and provoke the Kurds, citing as an example the threat by former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who demanded this week that the referendum be cancelled and said that “we will not allow the creation of a second Israel in northern Iraq”.

These were small scale skirmishes but they could escalate, particularly if the Shia militias move into Kurdish held areas. The KRG took advantage of the defeat of the Iraqi army in northern Iraq and the capture of Mosul by Isis to expand its territory by 40 per cent, taking over disputed areas.

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But Kurdish President Masoud Barzani, who called the referendum, says he intends to go ahead with it and it would be a humiliating failure for him to back down at this late stage, having rekindled the fires of Kurdish nationalism so successfully.

“Barzani and his advisers do not take the threats from Iran and Turkey seriously, saying that they have heard them all before and nothing happened,” says the veteran Kurdish leader Omar Sheikhmous.

A more certain result of the referendum will be that it will bolster Mr Barzani and the KDP in presidential and parliamentary elections 35 days later on 1 November.

Previously, he held his post unconstitutionally, having outstayed his term as president which ran out in 2015, and effectively closed down the Kurdish parliament by preventing its speaker entering the Kurdish capital Irbil where it sits.

In Irbil, the KRG authorities do not appear to have taken any concrete measures on the ground to open the way to practical independence.

This is partly because the KRG already behaves, in most respects other than international recognition, very much like an independent state, having achieved political and military autonomy under a US air umbrella when Saddam Hussein withdrew the Iraqi army in the aftermath of the Gulf war and Kurdish uprising in 1991.

He adds: “I hope they are right.” He himself warns that the Kurds are very isolated regionally and internationally, pointing out that the UN, US, UK, France and Germany are opposed to the referendum, as are neighbouring states such as Iran and Turkey as well as the Iraqi government in Baghdad.

He draws a parallel with the historic betrayal of the Iraqi Kurds by the US and Iran to Saddam Hussein in 1975, when they similarly found themselves without allies.

Despite the political uproar it has provoked, the referendum does not oblige Mr Barzani to secede from Iraq and establish an independent Kurdish state, though it will show that such a move has massive popular support.