COMMENTARY | As chaos descends over Iraq, with Sunni and Shia prepared to fight each other to the death, attention is focused on the Kurds, the long suffering but increasingly powerful ethnic minority group in the Middle East.
The Christian Science Monitor notes that the Kurdish militia, called the Peshmerga, has taken the opportunity to seize control over Kurdish territory in Iraq, including the oil rich town of Kirkuk. Does this mean the rise of an independent Kurdistan?
Not so fast, suggests Forbes. The problem that the Kurds face is that they are not able to find people willing to buy the oil that they control without the sanction of the Iraqi government. Without oil revenues, the Kurds are somewhat hampered in their drive to carve out an independent nation.
All that might change if the Iraqi central government collapses. But even though the Sunni terrorist group called ISIS has swept all before it, putting the Iraqi Army to flight, it is possible that the Maliki government could stabilize things thanks to the intervention of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the expansion of Shiite militias. The possibility of American air strikes on ISIS positions would not be unhelpful either.
This still leaves the Kurds in a good bargaining position if and when the Iraqi government manages to regain control of its northern territories The Kurds, pointing out that they denied ISIS the rich oil fields around Kirkuk, could make a post-civil war arrangement to keep more oil revenue. Even an Iranian dominated Iraq that may emerge might be inclined to take that deal.
On the other hand, if ISIS carves out a caliphate on Iraqi and Syrian territory or if chaos continues to reign, it might serve western interests to support an independent, pro-western Kurdistan in the ashes of the Middle East. That would mean buying its oil and then turning around and selling weapons. Kurdistan would be an ideal place for an air base. To be sure an Islamist caliphate is going to require a lot of drone strikes for quite some time to come.