Old photo of Eastern Kurds, 1898
by Serhun Al, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, August 12, 2014
[Note: for the Arabic version of this article, click here.]
As the Islamic State consolidates its presence in Iraq the question of an independent Kurdish state has again become the subject of heated debate. Despite a rapidly changing situation, with U.S. airstrikes supporting peshmerga attempts to push the Islamic State back, realities regarding the prospects of Kurdish independence remain largely unchanged. Potential challenges include security hurdles, disagreement among Kurdish stakeholders, and the lack of broad international support.
As aspirations among the Kurdish population for an independent, secure, and economically flourishing state within Iraq mount, rifts within Kurdish parties stand in the way of even an agreement on whether independence is viable. Rival Kurdish groups, each fearful of losing the status quo, have proven extremely divided on the question of statehood. The quest for independence is more likely to incite these rivalries than soothe them. Massoud Barzani, the president of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), has been pushing for independence, while his main rival party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), remains unconvinced. Despite its support for independence, the Gorran (Change) movement is concerned about the potential dominance of the Barzani family and the absence of democratic and accountable institutions on which a viable state could be built. (more…)