Kurdish Peshmerga forces are in full control of what they call Kurdistani areas outside the Kurdistan Region. This provides a golden opportunity for them to once and for all to settle their land dispute with Iraq.
The Kurds hoped to regain those lands through the constitutional Article 140, but ten years passed and Baghdad showed no genuine intention to implement that article or settle that issue that means so much to the Kurds.
Now and with Peshmerga forces deployed across Kirkuk province and parts of Nineveh and Diyala, KRG officials have to act wisely. Coordinate with the local tribes, establish contact and effective communications and give assurance and a sense of belonging to some minorities who live in those areas and might be apprehensive of Kurdish control.
The current situation in Iraq is very similar to that of 2003, in term of the total collapse of the Iraqi army and the Kurdish takeover of exactly the same areas they took last week. However back then, they had to withdraw under US and Turkish pressure.
This time, Ankara and Erbil are on good terms. They have strong economic and diplomatic ties as well as longstanding energy agreements. Also unlike 2003, this time there are no US troops in Iraq to replace the Peshmerga in Kirkuk and fill the security vacuum left behind the Iraqi army.
Besides, the Kurds won Kirkuk in a landslide victory in Iraq’s provincial elections in April.
Kurds helped rebuild Iraq after Saddam Hussein, hoping that the new “democratic, pluralistic federal Iraq” would yield to their legitimate demands and respects them as equal partners. But the outcome was the same cycle of procrastination, denial of Kurdish rights and a centralized Iraq that was much too dependent on the iron fist of the army, which collapsed before our eyes in the matter of hours.
The Kurds patiently tested all kinds of regimes in Iraq—monarchy, socialism, nationalism, Baathism and finally the so-called post-Saddam democracy, but the story was always the same.
Unlike an unstable, unreliable Iraq, Turkey could be a more secure partner and gateway to the outside world, not only for the Kurdish oil, but also for Kirkuk that is believed to have 9 billion barrels of oil reserves. The Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline can be rerouted to Kurdistan, something that can be done under the 2013 energy agreement.
For this, its imperative that Ankara supports the KRG to remain a powerful force in Iraq and Kirkuk in particular. The 50-year energy agreement can be redrafted and include Kirkuk, too.
In the meantime, the KRG can give security and all the citizenship rights to the Turkmen, Assyrian, Arabs, Chaldeans and Yazidis and involve them in local and political affairs of the new areas. In turn, they will stand by the KRG and its bid for an easy control and possible independence.
Finally when the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) declares the end of the 1916 Sykes-Picot borders, why shouldn’t the Kurds be able to do the same?