Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki alienated the Sunni Arab population of Iraq and failed to listen to repeated warnings that he was playing with fire, thus creating the conditions where Mosul fell into the hands of the religious extremists who call themselves the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
What Maliki did not bargain for was the bitter fact that his Shiite-dominated army was a paper tiger that crumbled before the attacks of the religious extremists of ISIS, thus not only opening the way for the swift invasion of Mosul but also the fall of Kirkuk, not to the ISIS militants but to the Kurds.
For more than a decade the Kurdish Regional Government had been laying claim to several "disputed territories" that stretch from northeast of Baghdad to the Syrian frontier west of Mosul. The prize was of course oil rich Kirkuk, which the Arabs were holding on to with great pride, yet Maliki's forces fled the city as the Sunni extremists advanced west of Mosul, and Kirkuk is now under Kurdish control.
The Kurds were demanding a referendum to legalize their claim over the province, and the Iraqi Arabs, both Shiite and Sunni, were vehemently opposing this. Now, the Arabs have presented Kirkuk to the Kurds on a golden plate.
Turkey, on the other hand, supported the Arab thesis that Kirkuk should not be a part of the Kurdish entity and that it should be run by a special administration including Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens like an autonomous region of Iraq. Now, Turkey has to accept this fait accompli.
Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani does not want to confront the Sunni extremists and will now hold on to his gains in the disputed areas and will not fight against them unless these areas are threatened. Barzani is being prodded by PKK militants holed up in the Qandil Mountains who want to fight ISIS forces. The PKK wants to engage ISIS forces in Iraq, thus easing some of the pressure that has been built up against PKK's allies in eastern Syria by Sunni extremists.
The Sunni extremists on the other had seem to be guided and advised by Saddam's former top brass in Mosul and will not try to take on the Kurds at least in the short term. However, it is clear that they are set on fighting actively against the Shiite-dominated forces and if necessary move on to Baghdad. The same top brass of Saddam are also reportedly advising the Sunni extremists not to antagonize Ankara.
Thus, they have released the Turkish truck drivers that were arrested earlier by the ISIS people, and there are indications that the "hostages" taken by ISIS forces when they raided our consulate in Mosul are now "guests" of the extremists and will be handed over to Turkey.
The enmity towards Maliki and the Shiite Arabs of Iraq seems to have made a peak with the Sunnis. ISIS Spokesman Muhammad al-Adnani has been quoted as saying the Shiite 60 percent of the Iraqi population "are a disgraced people," accusing them of being "polytheists." This clearly suggests a strong and ideological twist that is so characteristic of the fundamentalist al-Qaeda.
There is talk that Barzani will not try to bail out Maliki and will prefer to see Iraq disintegrate, opening the way for the establishment of a Kurdish state in northern Iraq. This may sound good in the short run. Yet, in the medium and long run the Kurds as well as everyone else may be the grand losers if Iraq falls apart. Proclaiming the Kurdish state is the easy part. Sustaining that state amid the turmoil of a disintegrating Iraq may turn out to be mission impossible. This turmoil will cause such turmoil that it will not only be harmful for the Kurds in their bid to keep their state going, but it will also be harmful to Turkish interests.
The Kurds may rejoice today, but if they do not play their cards right, they may also become the major losers as the Iraqi turmoil swallows up everyone.