Kurdish Independence Vote
The results of the vote on Kurdish independence are not yet in, but are almost certainly to be in favor of independence, according to the Washington Post. While the Kurds have been great allies of the US in Middle East, the creation of a Kurdish state is certain to create problems among the four countries with large Kurdish populations – Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria. Each of these countries view the creation of a Kurdish state differently, but none of them entirely favorably. The most strongly opposed is Turkey, which views some Kurdish organizations as terrorists, and for that reason is suspicious of all Kurds. Iraq has enough problems with ISIS and the Sunni-Shiite split without adding Kurdish independence or autonomy to its inbox. In Syria the Kurds pursue their own self-interest in creating a Kurdish state, but sometimes this means fighting against the Syrian government and in some cases fighting for it, or at least fighting its enemies. Assad has many more important problems on his plate than Kurdistan, although Kurdistan would occupy a significant part of Syria, about one-quarter of it. Iran opposed the vote on Kurdish independence, but it too has not put Kurdish issues at the top of its agenda; the Kurds seem to have a better relationship with the Iranian government than with the governments of the other three countries affected. The US is also upset by the vote because of the confusion it may create in the region, although the Kurds have been America’s best ally in the fight against ISIS.
In any case the creation of a new Kurdish state out of portions of four existing nations is almost certainly to be problematic. The most recent example is the creation of South Sudan, which has led to civil war, famine, and thousands of deaths. Arguably the creation earlier creation of several nations from the disintegrating Yugoslavia should have been peaceful, but it led to a terrible Balkan war among the new states – Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Kosovo, and Montenegro. The split up of Czechoslovakia into Czech and Slovakia went somewhat more smoothly. The creation of Israel has led to seventy years of violence and unrest in the Middle East. Given the existing conflict in the Middle East and the countries involved in the creation of Kurdistan, it seems likely that it would be violent.
Iraq has said that it will not recognize the results of the vote, but the Kurds may not allow the Iraqis to ignore it. Iraqi Kurdistan is rich in oil; the Kurds will want it, and the Iraqis will not want to give it up. Turkey will not want to do anything that it perceives as strengthening the hand of Kurdish separatists in Turkey. This already appears to mean closing the border to shipments of oil, according to the NYT.
As a sign of things to come, Iraq has demanded that Kurdistan surrender its airports. Iraq asked other countries’ airlines not fly into Kurdistan. Kurdistan does not have its own airline.