The US military may have withdrawn from Iraq, but the biggest US policy decision on the nation may be yet to come, in the form of a potential administration endorsement for Kurdish secession.
Dispute between the increasingly unpopular Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have gotten ever closer to outright military conflict. Kurdish leaders have suggested the only reason Maliki is still buying arms from the US is because he envisions attacking Kurdistan and eliminating its semi-autonomous status, and needs better gear to stand up to the KRG’s Peshmearga fighters.
The US has always supported Kurdistan, to a point. The shift to openly backing secession would be a big one, but the financial incentives for such a shirt could be significant, with the central government and KRG fighting over oil revenue, and the KRG’s deals increasingly benefiting US corporations at the expense of Iraqi contracts.
That may seem cynical but is not out of keeping with historical US policy in the region, which has centered around oil. Maliki’s role as an ally of Iran might provide yet another excuse to cut him loose in favor of an independent Kurdistan and lucrative deals for Exxon-Mobil.
The interventionist American Enterprise Institute has also issued a policy paper suggesting they believe the time for such a shift is nearing, saying that a successful transition of power after the next Kurdish elections could be presented as proof the Kurds “deserve” independence in the estimation of the US.
The prime mover against Kurdish independence has always been Turkey, but with peace talks progressing with the PKK, that obstacle may well be removed soon as well, setting the stage for the US jumping on board the break-up of Iraq after spending massive amounts of money and troops desperately trying to keep the nation together.