The bombing of Halabcha and the Anfaal campaign during the rule of the dictator Saddam Hussein had created sympathy worldwide with the Kurdish people and their aspiration for independence, but the sympathy is eroding after the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) adopted expansionist policies since 2003 of re-populating and disputing the status of Karkuk and Mosul. The main advisor behind the expansionist policies is Ambassador Peter Galbraith, who “urged the Kurds to be maximalists about their demands”.

From Kurdish and American perspectives I see no sense in such expansionist policies; Oversized Kurdistan carved out of Iraq will surely destabilize the Kurdish regions of Turkey and Iran, antagonize Iraq and will not be able to sustain a geo-political weight due to its geography and small population. large long-term U.S. support would be vital requirement and the rewards for the U.S. and the Kurdish population may not justify the expense. Moreover, since the KRG wants the separation of Kurdistan to be a bi-lateral issue between Iraq and Kurdistan, there is nothing to motivate any of its neighbors to accept such a scenario.

IMHO an alternative scenario of a shared smaller Lebanon-sized Kurdistan is more viable, where all regional parties may benefit from its creation in the long run. Turkey and Iran would benefit from a Kurdish state created partly from their territory; when separatist-minded Turkish and Iranian Kurds can be encouraged to join the new state, others would feel more comfortable seeing a Kurdish homeland nearby while they enjoy the benefits of citizenship in a larger state. Iraq would be able to emphasize its Arabic identity, more importantly a Kurdish state could be the result of a regional settlement which includes internationally guaranteed water division agreement with Turkey and Syria. The U.S. would have an ally in Kurdistan without the need for costly military support and access guarantees. On the other hand, if the Kurds follow through with their maximalist policies leading to play out. In order to go forward without risk of war the Kurds should abandon their expansionist ambitions, a smaller homeland would get them a more secure state surrounded by Kurdish populated Turkish/Iranian/Iraqi regions which could make it difficult to threaten without antagonising their own Kurdish population. The idea of a smaller landlocked native homeland surrounded by regions of mixed or friendly population has historical and working parallels.

Realistically, the path for peaceful evolution of the birth of Kurdistan remains unlikely, straddled between Kurdish unbridled ambitions and American lack of initiative. A positive step to create common ground for all and an indespensible dose of reality for negotiations is a UN run population census, which sadly remains on the backburner.

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