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If this were a game of chess, the Iraqi Kurds would be white knights. Thanks to Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, the semi-autonomous Kurdish territories remain intact even as Iraq has crumbled in the face of the ISIS incursion.
So why has Erbil, specifically the dominant Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), not pressed ahead with independence from Baghdad? The answers are to be found not in Erbil or Baghdad but in Washington and in Ankara.
Talk of independence has been toned down dramatically in the weeks since the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani announced plans for a referendum in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region and oil-rich Kirkuk. Iraq, he declared at the end of June, had fallen apart and the Kurds could not remain hostages to the unknown. But that was then, when Nuri al-Maliki was trying to cling to power, even as the legacy of his years of sectarian rule became apparent when the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) stormed into northwest Iraq.
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