Before we invaded Iraq, the Clinton no-fly zone policy had isolated the Shi’ites in southern Iraq and the Kurds in northern Iraq from the regime in the Sunni center of Iraq. The Kurds, after a couple of years, realized that they were more or less free, elected a secular government, and started figuring out how to deal with the fact that they controlled the majority of the oil in Iraq. They have not been happy with being reunited with the rest of Iraq. The “three state solution” was floated after we invaded and realized that at least two of the population groups in Iraq would gladly eradicate the other, but one of the barricades to the idea was Turkish opposition to the establishment of a nation called Kurdistan. It seems there are Kurds in Turkey who also want their own country and they would do whatever they needed to to be united with the Iraqi Kurds in a new nation.
On Tuesday, President Obama, while in Mexico for the G20 summit, received a request from Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to intervene with the Kurds. Those impossibly independent Kurds has just signed a deal with Exxon Mobil for their oil without the permission of the central government.
Iraq cannot afford to lose the revenue from the Kurdish oil fields. Last year, Exxon Mobil signed an exploration deal with the Kurdish Regional Government and the central government said the deal was illegal. Kurdistan has a certain degree of autonomy, but must still function within the parameters of the centralized government.
In one of those great pieces of historical irony, it was Vice President Joe Biden who was the greatest proponent of the three-state solution back in 2004. While attention has been focused on the continuing violence between Shias and Sunnis, the Kurds have been having their issues with the central government over where the actual “regional” border is.
The administration had not responded to Prime Minister al-Maliki’s message today.