John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, has urged Kurdish leaders to stand with Baghdad in the face of a Sunni Arab revolt but the Kurds appear to have concluded that Iraq is finished as a unitary state.

On the battlefront, the attacks of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) have slowed but government forces do not look as if they can regain lost territory. “We are facing a new reality and a new Iraq,” said Kurdish President Masoud Barzani at the start of his meeting with Mr Kerry in Iraqi Kurdistan. Earlier, he had blamed “the wrong policies” of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s for the violence and called for him to go, saying it was “very difficult” to imagine Iraq staying together.

The Kurds used the opportunity presented by the Isis assault and the disintegration of the Iraqi army in northern Iraq to take over territories disputed with the Arabs in Kirkuk, Nineveh, Salahuddin and Diyala provinces. This is a broad swath of land which is either populated by Kurds or from which Kurds say they were ethnically cleansed by Saddam Hussein and his predecessors. This includes the oilfields of Kirkuk and newly discovered oil or gas fields.

Mr Barzani is in a strong position because his Peshmerga soldiers are the most coherent military force in Iraq as the Iraqi army fails to stop Isis and its allies. It is clear that Isis is not treating the Peshmerga as its main enemy at the moment; though there have been clashes here populations are mixed along what used to be called the “trigger line” running from east of Baghdad on the Iranian frontier to the north-east corner of Syria. The battle for self-determination by the Iraqi Kurds seems close to being won as the Iraqi state founders and is in no position to prevent Kurdish independence. In an interview with CNN, Mr Barzani repeated a threat to hold a referendum on independence, saying it was time for Kurds to decide their own fate… see more

source: Independent UK