The Kurds in the north, who make up roughly twenty percent of the population, want out. They never wished to be part of Iraq in the first place. To this day, they still call the bathroom the “Winston Churchill,” in sarcastic homage to the former British prime minister who shackled them to Baghdad. Since the early 1990s, they’ve had their own government and autonomous region in the northern three provinces, and they held a referendum in 2005 in which 98.7 percent voted to secede and declare independence. The only reason they haven’t finally pulled the trigger is because it hasn’t been safe; the Turks—who fear the contagion of Kurdish independence inside their own country—have threatened to invade if they did. . .
The Kurds will be happy to go and will likely declare independence if the United States finally ceases championing “the territorial integrity of Iraq.” Washington should drop the phrase and at least quietly back the only true allies it has over there, and guarantee their safety from the Turks or anyone else who finds Kurdish independence inconvenient.A free Kurdish state would be as reliable an American ally as Israel. It might also embolden the Kurds of Syria to declare their own state. Both could function as permanent buffers—and perhaps even beachheads—against the likes of ISIS, Assad, or any other bad actors whom we haven’t yet heard of in this region filled with aspirants. . .
The only real allies Americans have in Iraq are the Kurds. If we’re going to live by that famous foreign policy maxim, that you reward your friends and punish your enemies, then we are required to let the Kurds go and to let Iraq die.