In January 2005 the Iraqi Kurds held an informal referendum. More than 80 percent turned out to vote. 98.7 percent of those voted to secede from Iraq. Not only have the Kurds long dreamed of independence, when they look south they see only Islamism, Baathism, blood, fire, and mayhem.
If Middle Easterners had drawn the borders themselves, Iraq wouldn’t even exist. Blame the British for shackling Kurds and Arabs together when they created the new post-imperial and post-Ottoman map. The Kurds do. They call the W.C. (the “water closet,” i.e. the toilet) “Winston Churchill.” Several times when my translator needed a bathroom break he said “I need to use the Winston Churchill.”
Not one Iraqi flag is flown in Kurdistan’s capital of Erbil. Only maps will tell you that Erbil is part of Iraq. The Iraqi flag is flown on government buildings in Suleimaniya, the stronghold of the PUK. But it’s the old Iraqi flag, the pre-Saddam Iraqi flag, the one that doesn’t have Allahu Akbar scrawled across the middle of it.
The Kurdistan Regional Government has its own ministers. They report to no one in Baghdad. The Kurds have their own military. They have their own economy. They have their own internal border, and they are its only policemen.
The Kurds even have their own foreign policy. Their government is internationally recognized. When Masoud Barzani travels to foreign capitals he is recognized as the President of Iraqi Kurdistan.
The only thing the Kurds don’t have is Kirkuk.