The US has made a big deal of publicly opposing Kurdish independence in Iraq since the 2003 US invasion and occupation of the country, but Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) chief Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart says independence is a matter of “not if but when” for the Kurds.
The Kurds are, of course, planning a referendum toward independence in October, one which is likely to be overwhelmingly supported. Stewart, however, warns that successful independence hinges on the Kurdish leadership reaching “an understanding” with the Baghdad government.
That’s unlikely to happen, as the Shi’ite-dominated central government is heavily dependent on oil revenue coming out of Kurdish territory, and will almost certainly reject any effort to separate the Kurdish land so long as it also means losing their oil.
It’s been expected that the ISIS war could give way to yet another civil war in Iraq over Kurdistan. Direct US armament of the Kurdish Peshmerga means they are now a very formidable fighting force, and might believe they can secede outright, even without Baghdad’s blessing.