The independence referendum exposed how vulnerable the semi-autonomous KRG was—as a landlocked, oil-dependent territory surrounded by hostile powers.
The Kurdish predicament is defined by energy and oil. Their assets hold the promise of prosperity and independence—but they also serve as tripwires for conflict and sources of leverage for opponents.
A familiar formula holds that “oil = revenue = independence” but it’s more complicated for the Kurds in both Iraq and Syria, but the true barriers to autonomy are far more complicated.
Caught between the battle with ISIS, the public's needs, and desire to invest in future oil production, Iraq is running out of options as low oil prices drag on.
Turkey sits at the crossroads between east and west. This has been a strategic advantage throughout its history, but even in the modern world, Turkey still sees an enormous benefit from being the gateway between Europe, Central Asia, and the energy-rich Middle East.
The Kurds of Iraq can’t be faulted for dreaming of independence. But given the circumstances, they also can’t be faulted for waiting a while longer to declare it.