The 30 million Kurds of the Middle East don’t only live in Iraq, of course. But all of them are feeling the tremors of change. Iran, which has a significant Kurdish minority of its own, is strengthening its ties with the KRG, which it views as a vital ally in the fight against IS. In Syria, the civil war has enabled Kurds to set up wide-ranging self-administration in the northeast of the country — thus eroding the border between Syrian and Iraqi Kurds, who now travel back and forth across the line without visas. And in Turkey, home to the region’s largest Kurdish minority, the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has abandoned long-held policies aimed at the suppression of a distinct Kurdish identity and is conducting peace talks with the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), responsible for a decade-long insurgency in eastern Turkey.
All of this means that the Kurds, who enjoy the unenviable status of the world’s largest nation without a state, now find themselves on the verge of establishing their first viable national homeland — nearly a century after the Great Powers carved up the post-World War I Ottoman Empire into the countries of today’s Middle East, ultimately leaving the Kurds out in the cold. (The Soviet Union sponsored the creation of a Kurdish republic in Iran in 1946, but it quickly collapsed when the Soviets withdrew their support.) “An independent Kurdistan is something that all Kurds dream of,” retiree Ramzi Maaroof, 65, told me as we chatted in the Erbil bazaar. “I’ve been waiting all my life to see it.”
“An independent Kurdistan is something that all Kurds dream of,” retiree Ramzi Maaroof, 65, told me as we chatted in the Erbil bazaar. “I’ve been waiting all my life to see it.”
If the dream finally becomes a reality, there is one nation in particular that the Kurds will have to thank for it: the United States. Even though U.S. policy toward the Kurds has often been subordinated to the same spirit of realpolitik that defines so many of Washington’s policies in the region, today’s Iraqi Kurdistan traces its origins to two key events: the establishment of a no-fly zone over the region after the Allied victory over Saddam in 1991, and the overthrow of the Iraqi dictator in the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. As a result, Kurds tend to be overwhelmingly pro-American — to an extent that comes as quite a jolt to anyone who’s spent time in other parts of the Middle East.
Read the whole article here: Foreign Policy