The President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Massoud Barzani let the cat out of the bag when he declared last week that in a matter of a few months the Kurds will hold a referendum to part ways with Iraq and set up their own state.
This is no surprise as we already pointed out in our columns earlier in the week that the Kurds would sooner or later proclaim an independent state as Iraq fell apart.
Unfortunately Iraq's disintegration, much to the disappointment of Turkey and the United States as well as several other countries, seems to have entered an irreversible phase despite calls for the creation of a national unity government in Baghdad that will include Arab Sunnis, Kurds and the Arab Shiites. The socalled "Islamic State" or the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) is continuing to claim a string of successes against the Iraqi army of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
The successes of the Sunni Arab extremists have also opened the way for the Kurds to grab disputed territories including oil rich Kirkuk and thus create their ideal borders within Iraq. With the oil of Kirkuk, the Kurds can eventually sell one million barrels of crude oil a day opposed to the current 125,000 barrels through Turkey. But of course this depends heavily on Turkish approval and cooperation.
Now the Kurds are being accused of opportunism by the Arab world. Arab public opinion seems to be lambasting the Kurds for exploiting the plight of Iraq not only because they have grabbed disputed territories but because they are talking loudly about setting up their own state by seceding from Iraq.
The Arabs also accuse the Kurds of cooperating with Israel and that as soon as a Kurdish state is or will be set up they will forge close ties with the Jewish state. They also say the Jewish Kurds living in Israel are taking part in clandestine activities to hunt down Palestinians.
Yet, the Arabs seem to miss the fact that it is not the policies of the Kurds of Iraq but completely the mistaken policies of Maliki that has pushed Iraq to the brink of disintegration. Maliki has effectively alienated the Kurds and drawn the hatred of the Sunni Arabs. Maliki has not only denied the Sunni Arabs rights and opportunities but has continuously humiliated them and thus is now suffering because of his failures.
Maliki has denied a continuous and stable flow of funds to the Kurds and has used the Kurdish share of Iraq's oil revenues as a tool for blackmailing the Barzani administration.
The Iranians for their part also oppose a Kurdish state not only because they fully back Maliki but also because they feel an independent Kurdish state may further encourage Iran's Kurds who want secession.
Ankara wants Iraq to remain intact and also wants the rights of the Turkmens of Iraq to be recognized. Turkey holds the key for a Kurdish state and without Ankara's blessing it will be impossible to sustain such a state. The Iraqi Kurds are playing the "cheap energy" card against Turkey yet Ankara sees that even with the current relative peace, tranquility and security in the areas controlled by the Kurdish Regional Government, it will be very hard to maintain this when the rest of Iraq goes up in flames.
Ankara does not fear that a Kurdish state will be a source of attraction for its own Kurds. Turkey's peace process with the Kurds is progressing in a satisfactory manner. The fact that a Kurd, Selahattin Demirtaş, with his own ethnic identity is one of the three candidates running in the presidential race speaks for itself.
Ankara wants genuine stability at its doorstep and unlike the Arabs sees how Maliki has frustrated the Kurds and pushed them to a state where they are starting to openly talk about a separate state. So if one day the Kurds are forced to part ways with Iraq, Ankara will have very few options but to accept the will of the Kurds of Iraq.