Why an Independent Kurdistan Will Benefit the US

Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government President Massud Barzani
Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government President Massud Barzani (Photo: SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)

Masoud Barzani, the President of the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (IKRG) announced an independence referendum to be held on September 25 this year.

“The referendum on whether to secede from Iraq will be held in the three governorates that make up the Kurdish region and in the areas that are disputed by the Kurdish and Iraqi governments but are currently under Kurdish military control,” Al-Jazeera reported.

If they vote yes, how would an independent Kurdistan benefit the United States?

First of all, an independent Kurdistan would be an American ally.  In April 2016 the U.S. agreed to supply the Peshemerga, the autonomous armed forces of the IKRG, with $415 million in financial assistance. The Pentagon also set up a Kurdistan training-coordination center and three training bases.

Kurds have long supported America and would be opposed to Iranian and Turkish interests. They would be uninterested in supporting efforts to promote Iranian regional hegemony.

Nor would they be interested in clandestinely supporting terrorist groups and extremist ideologies, as Qatar and Saudi Arabia do.

Secondly, Kurdistan has a track record of treating minorities far better than its neighbors. At the moment Kurdistan is a safe haven for Christians, Yazidis and other minorities in Iraq, in contrast to the other areas of the country which are plagued by sectarian violence.

Thirdly, an independent Kurdistan may well make peace with Israel, not just recognition and a ceasefire but a real, warm and open peace. Such an eventuality would be a huge shift in the region that would benefit American efforts to boost stability and trade.

If Trump’s grand plan for a regional grand deal is ever to come to fruition, the Kurds deserve justice in the form of their own state. Such a state would be an asset to America and to American interests throughout the region.

EF
Elliot Friedland
Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.

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