The time to push for independence?
Since the fall of Saddam Hussein and particularly in the latest sectarian storm as ISIS has swept through large parts of northern Iraq, many in the international arena point to the carving up and disintegration of Iraq. However, from a Kurdish perspective, it is a question of how can you break something that wasn’t whole to start with?
It is no secret that the dreams of the Kurds have always started and finished at an independent homeland. They gained nothing but genocide and repression under Saddam and they have little to gain now as part of an Iraq with a vicious cycle of violence and sectarian warfare that the Kurds want little to do with.
The booming, stable and prosperous Kurdistan Region was a reflection of anything but Iraq. Even before recent developments in Iraq, Kurdistan was virtually independent anyway. There were missing ingredients that the Kurds have worked hard to bridge. One of these was independent oil exports and control of their own revenues, as opposed to been at the mercy and goodwill of Baghdad for share of national budget.
With the Kurdish plains washed with so much oil, the revenues the Kurds could soon gain would far outweigh anything that Baghdad could ever give.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Nouri al-Maliki led Baghdad government have been at logger heads over oil rights for several years. Simply put, control of oil revenues and oil exports was a remaining noose that Baghdad had over Kurdistan. Kurdistan has tried to cut this remaining umbilical cord to Baghdad by working hard to build strong ties with Turkey, oil majors and building their own independent oil pipeline.
The second key ingre- dient to Kurdish push to independence was the status of disputed territories. Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution laid out clear steps and clear timelines for the resolution of such territories. Yet almost 7 years since the original deadline for its implementation, owed to a lack of appetite and constant foot dragging by Baghdad, article 140 was never implemented.
Now with the recent ISIS onslaught and latest turmoil in Iraq, not only can the Kurds press ahead and increase oil exports, they have now gained control of vast disputed territories, including Kirkuk, the symbol of the Kurdish struggle.
Depending on how and if the Sunni insurgency can be contained as well as well as the time expended in doing so, Kurds may well fast-track their push to independence. But for now, they are willing to bide their time and crucially consolidate their newly expanded borders and bring stability to their areas. Who can blame the Kurds, who never wanted to be a part of the Iraqi state in the first place, to push for separation when the country is yet again in sectarian flames?
Self-determination is a natural right at the calmest of times, let alone at times of war with bloodshed on your doorstep.
Even Turkey, traditionally a staunch opponent of Kurdish nationalism, has come to realise that not only is Kurdish independence a natural path that ultimately cannot be stopped, but they can gain tremendous benefit from a secular, oil rich, strategic partners in the tumultuous new age of the Middle East.
Kurdistan was always going to become an independent state, now the timelines have been greatly accelerated with the new crisis in Iraq.