In 1991, after the Kuwait War had ended, and as Saddam Hussein attacked Iraq’s 6-million Kurds, three arguments were made against American intervention on the Kurds’ behalf, arguments still commonly heard today: (1) Kurdish independence would spell the end of Iraq as a state, (2) it would embolden Kurdish agitation for independence in Syria, Turkey and Iran, leading to destabilization and border conflicts, and (3) it would invite the persecution of non-Kurds, causing “large and bloody exchanges of population.”
All three arguments no longer are persuasive. Given Iraq’s wretched domestic and foreign track record, the end of a unified Iraq actually promises relief, as do Kurdish stirrings in neighbouring countries. Syria already has fracturing into its three ethnic and sectarian components: Kurdish, Sunni Arab, and Shiite Arab, which promises benefits in the long term. Kurdish areas departing Turkey usefully impede the reckless ambitions of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Similarly, Kurds decamping Iran helpfully diminish that arch-aggressive mini-empire.
Moreover, far from non-Kurds fleeing Iraqi Kurdistan, as I once feared in the 1990s, the opposite has occurred: Hundreds of thousands of refugees are pouring in from the rest of Iraq to benefit from Kurdistan’s security, tolerance and opportunities.