Splitting Iraq: How Likely is an Independent Kurdistan?

Iraqi Kurdistan has other income streams and income opportunities and the promise of a hydrocarbon pipeline to Turkey offers a life line but in the short term, this income will not be enough to pay salaries in the bloated public sector or to invest in rebuilding the infrastructure, that would eventually lead to growth and an increase in oil and gas production.

In fact it’s disputable whether Kurdish oil production could ever match Baghdad’s current contribution. If Kirkuk and other disputed territories are taken out of the equation, then the amount of oil Iraqi Kurdistan could export may never match up to the 17 percent of the budget that they’re currently getting.

So although many Kurds yearn for independence, when the state’s finances dry up and there are budget cuts, unemployment and a reduction in living standards, those views may well change – and, whatever other faults they may have, almost all Kurdish politicians can see this how this would be extremely unpopular.

An independent Iraqi Kurdistan would not just lose its Baghdad budget, the state would also go from holding some part of the balance of power in the Iraqi parliament – the Kurdish bloc has been referred to as “kingmakers” because the two major opposition blocs have fairly equal numbers in Parliament – to being a small state, surrounded by far larger, far less friendly states in the area.

Should Iraqi Kurdistan secede, it is not even clear whether the international community would recognise the would-be country as a fully fledged nation-state.

In international terms, Kurdish independence would rely heavily on the Iraqi Kurdish relationship with Turkey. In fact, contrary to popular opinion in both Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan, an independent Kurdistan could benefit Turkey immensely.

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