Monday, December 16, 2013

In A Changing Middle East, Should the U.S. Support Kurdish Independence?

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw
Kurdish leaders say they have no plans to secede from Iraq.

But in practice, their steps suggest otherwise. Over the past few years, they have taken increasingly bold steps to boost the position of their autonomous region in an otherwise war-torn country.

The most significant of which has been the multi-billion-dollar oil and gas deals Kurdistan has signed with Turkey and foreign oil companies in defiance of Baghdad and Washington.

Already, Kurdistan seems to have most of the pre-conditions of an independent state. It has its own foreign ministry. It manages its own army. It flies its own flag and has a Kurdish national anthem.

But to achieve de-jure independence- or legal status in the United Nations, Kurds need something else: the support of powerful nations such as the United States.

The U.S. has historically opposed an independent Kurdistan.

But in an increasingly tumultuous Middle East, where traditional borders and politics are challenged by a resurgence of ethno-sectarianism and religious extremism, is not an independent pro-Western Kurdish state in the U.S. interest in that strategic part of the world?

To discuss this subject, I am joined by

- Marina Ottaway, a scholar at Wilson Center for independent research.

- Douglas A. Ollivant, a Senior National Security Fellow with the New America Foundation.

- Ben Van Heuvelen, managing director of Iraq Oil Report and a contributor to the Washington Post. 

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