Sometimes We Learn The Most About Ourselves From Our Opponents

Indeed, the KRG is slightly bigger than the U.S. state of Maryland and about the size of Switzerland. But what it does have in area and population it lacks in the factors that make a stable state. Jones, who was U.S. ambassador from 2014 to 2016, argued those reasons are why the U.S. doesn’t support an independent Kurdish state at the moment.

“A: The KRG is not economically viable. B: The political conditions were simply not prepared. We’re seeing that,” he said. “There’s a very sharp reaction from Iran. There’s a sharp reaction from Turkey. A sharp reaction from Baghdad. So the neighbors weren’t prepared for this. They weren’t willing to go along. There were a lot of issues that were not resolved.”

Regional reaction may, in part, be the reason why the Iraqi government acted in the manner it did. As I wrote earlier this week, now that ISIS is all but defeated, the region’s dormant conflicts are resurfacing. Iran, Syria, and Turkey have significant Kurdish minorities and Tehran and Ankara, especially, fear that an independent Kurdish state would embolden Kurdish separatist forces in their own countries. Turkey, which traditionally has been close to the Barzani family, and Iran, which enjoys influence with the rival Talabani family (the two families have dominated Kurdish politics for decades), stepped in. Turkey called the referendum a “big mistake” and threatened to stop buying oil from the Kurds. Iran was more direct. Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Quds force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was in Iraqi Kurdistan last weekend, meeting with the Talabani-allied Patriotic Union of Kurdistan to mediate a resolution to the standoff. It appears to have worked. PUK fighters withdrew from Kirkuk this week, handing the city over to Iraqi government forces.

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