Following on the heels of the Arab Spring, the latest attacks in the region by the militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) have released the genie from the bottle. Middle Eastern countries' national boarders, delineated by the 1916 Sykes Picot Agreement – which does not jibe with developments in the new millennium – seem to be subject to a redrawing of sort in the near future. There is no doubt that one of the most important actors in this changing climate will be the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which has lately been the shining star of the region.
KRG President Massoud Barzani spoke about the historical necessity of their goal of Kurdish independence at a meeting in Ankara in 2011, which I also attended. In the previous days, he had openly said that they are now closer than ever to their goal, which they had postponed indefinitely and avoided broadcasting for so long.
In this respect, all indicators support Barzani's goal.
The tension that was created by the Iraqi federal government's Shiite-biased politics killed the will of the people to live harmoniously and legitimized Kurdish demands to choose their own destiny. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's inability to rule supports the idea of an independent Kurdistan, not as a preferred quest, but as an inevitable necessity.
Within the context of the Iraqi political environment, the KRG's move toward independence is consistent with the periodic interests of other regional actors and is an opportunity for Barzani's government.
Ankara can now rid itself of old Turkey's paranoia of an independent Kurdish state with an independent Iraqi Kurdistan on its southern border as security as opposed to being seen as a threat. With Barzani following a stable and reassuring strategy on the PKK issue, commercial interests and the partnership between the Turkish government and the KRG has caused Turkey's paradigm shift of Iraq and the KRG. The first concrete step of this new partnership has been the taking in distribution of oil from Iraqi Kurdistan, making it available on the world market.
Moreover, the Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has achieved peace with Turkish Kurds within Turkey through the nearly two year-old reconciliation process that has benefited from Barzani's support.
It is possible to read the Turkish government's official statements as saying that it supports Iraq's territorial integrity as diplomatic pragmatism. Consequently, it is sound to support Barzani, as Turkey's national interests overlap with those of an independent Iraqi Kurdistan, producing its own economic and political policies and acting independently from the Turkish government.
Of course, Turkey's positive stance toward an independent Iraqi Kurdistan, alone, is not enough. The U.S.' stance on this matter is highly crucial. In the previous days, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke against the idea of an independent Iraqi Kurdistan during his visit to Irbil. Washington wants to preserve Iraq's territorial integrity and form a national unity government in Bagdad. However, we can expect a change in Washington's stance if there is a formula that guarantees the U.S.' interests in the managements and trade of petroleum resources. Moreover, the latest statements from Israel, the oldest ally of the U.S. concerning Middle Eastern regional politics, are strong signals of the possible change in Washington's stance on an independent Iraqi Kurdistan.
Speaking at a think tank in the Israeli capital Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "an independent Kurdistan, which is a part of a large alliance among the moderate powers of the Middle East." Netanyahu states that, "Kurds deserve to have their own state."
With this positive picture, we can easily say that an independent Iraqi Kurdistan is at our door step with the help of the diplomatic talents of Massoud Barzani, who is drawing from the legacy of the Barzani family who have protected their people in the most difficult positions in the most heated place in the world for many years. Now, the historical rights of the oppressed Kurdish nation that deserves to have an independent state are being supported.