The Kurds now share a huge border with ISIS-controlled territory, and only a few miles of what is left of Iraq. The Kurdish militia, called the peshmerga, fights ISIS every day. Since early this year, the Kurdish regional government, which presides over the area, has been cut off entirely from Iraq’s oil revenue—to which it is entitled by law—by the government in Baghdad. The way that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is dealing with the Kurds is the same way he dealt with the Sunni Arabs—harshly and arbitrarily. Indeed, Maliki’s actions toward the Sunnis precipitated the events that led to the ISIS takeover.
In spite of all this, the Obama Administration seems bent on squeezing the Kurds to remain part of Iraq. According to Reuters, when the Kurds recently asked for military assistance the White House told them to work with the government in Baghdad, which, as the White House well knows, is tantamount to refusing them outright. And American officials have made it difficult for the Kurds to sell their own oil, stating publicly that any company which buys oil exported unilaterally by the Kurds risks incurring legal problems. Oil, for all practical purpose, is the Kurds’ only export, a case that Kurdish officials made again this week.