With Iraq defeating ISIS in Iraq, there is yet more violence that may seem imminent. The Kurdish topic — one which is a matter of great emotion to many Kurdish peoples around the world — seems to be exacerbating Iraq’s economic potential. Iraq’s Kurds endorsed secession on 9/25/17 — which has angered Turkey, the central government in Baghdad, and other regional and world powers, who fear the referendum could lead to renewed conflict in the region.
Economic blockades are being planned, and travel bans are in place in Northern Iraq — by order of the central government in Baghdad.
Iraqi authorities say they will still allow domestic flights operated by Iraqi Airways and aid flights, Jane reports, and the change is “not expected to affect U.S. and other military flights operating out of the military side of the Irbil airport.”
Iraq is holding a military exercise with neighboring Iran — which has been Iraq’s single best ally in successfully combating terrorism. Iran also banned the transportation of refined oil products by Iranian companies to and from Iraqi Kurdish region.
Kurdistan, which means ‘land of the Kurds’ in old Persian, has been a dream for millions of Kurds who live throughout landlocked Northern Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and Iran. The nearly 4 million Kurds in Iraq — many of whom have emigrated from Turkey and neighboring regions — reside within an autonomous region called Iraqi Kurdistan — which was created during the Persian Gulf War in 1991. It is an autonomous region in northern Iraq covering 15,692 square miles.
Their autonomous region in Iraq is the closest the Kurds have come in modern times to a state. It has flourished amid Iraq’s civil war but may struggle to maintain investment if it is blockaded economically.
Power Struggle in Iraq
In the fight against Islamic State, Kurds expand their territory. Rather than help to eradicate terrorism, the conflicting Kurdish agenda has led to recent land grabs in northern Iraq. Kurdish forces seized control of oil-rich, strategic territories — such as Kirkuk — in the past 20 years. The central Iraqi governement responded by cutting their Oil revenues — since the Kurds are illegally selling oil independently.
Corruption in the KRG is rampant, and recently — protestors in the Iraqi Kurdistan region have been jailed.
Internal Kurdish Strife
There are two major divisions within the Kurdish political factions; the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is backed by the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and their main opponent is the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.
The Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) was founded in 1946 by Mulla Mustafa Barzani and pushed for Kurdish autonomy under the Iraqi government. In 1975, another political party emerged in Iraqi Kurdistan, led by Jalal Talabani—the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan(PUK). Since the PUK was established, it lacked cooperation and engaged in violent conflict with the KDP over differing philosophies, demographics, and goals.
Reaction from Turkey
Turkey threatened potentially crippling restrictions on oil trading with Iraqi Kurds on Thursday, after they backed independence from Baghdad in a referendum that has alarmed Ankara, as it faces a separatist insurgency from its own Kurdish minority.
Turkey is actually inside Northern Iraq, conducting illegal military activities against the KRG’s opponents — the PUK — who have been conducting terrorism inside Turkey and Iraq for many decades. Regardless of that, they have an interest in keeping the Kurds at bay.
What Will the Future Hold?
I believe the Kurds deserve, and in fact will get their own sovereign nation. But to claim sovereignty while a Kurdish civil war is ongoing means a lot of strife for the people.
However, I am optimistic. One way to quell violence is to hold true Democratic elections — which has never happened in Northern Iraq. I believe the future of Iraq will depend on whether or not compromise can be accomplished.
If compromise means decentralized local governments — like the ones witnessed in northern (Kurdistan) and southern Iraq (Basra) — then Kurdistan will be to Iraq as Puerto Rico is to The United States. They will have sovereignty, so long as they compromise, without any issue.