An independent Kurdistan will have significant implications for the future of the Middle East. The biggest stakeholders are the countries of Turkey, Iran, and Iraq. All three nations have a significant Kurdish population that is settled in large portions of each country. The RAND Corporation has recently published a paper that takes a detailed look at this possible future event that examines the perspective of each of these countries.
The secession of the Kurds would pose a direct challenge to the authority of the Baghdad regime. At stake is the revenue proceeds from the rich oil fields of Kurdistan – many located around Kirkuk. Turkey would be in favor of slow and steady progress toward independence – but is wary of blowback in the Kurdish areas of Turkey. Iran is worried that its own Kurdish population would become emboldened.
An abstract of the paper is provided below:
“This report examines the potential implications for the region if the Kurdistan Region of northern Iraq were at some point to declare its secession from Iraq. Specifically, the authors analyze the interests of three key regional neighbors — the Iraqi central government, Turkey, and Iran — and explore policies each actor may pursue in response to Kurdish independence. The authors discuss the possible responses of Baghdad, Ankara, and Tehran under three different scenarios: a unilateral declaration of Kurdish independence that is broadly opposed by the region, a “last man standing” scenario in which the Iraqi state collapses and the Kurdistan Regional Government becomes an independent state, and a gradual estrangement between Erbil and Baghdad. The authors also consider how each of these scenarios could be influenced by a resurgence of Kurdish nationalism in which Kurdish populations in Iran, Turkey, or Syria not only support the establishment of a sovereign Kurdistan in northern Iraq, but even seek to join the new nation.”
Nader, Alireza, Larry Hanauer, Brenna Allen and Ali Scotten.
Regional Implications of an Independent Kurdistan.
Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, November 2016.
Also available in print form.