Geopolitical & Conflict Alerts
Following on our briefing of last week, the Kurdistan Regional Government in Northern Iraq has officially announced it is preparing to hold a referendum on independence, as central and southern Iraq remains under siege by a Sunni insurgency. Kurdish forces have largely taken control of the key strategic area of Kirkuk, a major oil-producing region situated in the strip of territories disputed between the Iraqi central authorities in Baghdad and the Kurdish authorities in Erbil. As we have noted repeatedly over the past year and a half, the KRG is hesitant to make a bid for independence without Kirkuk, and the burgeoning civil war in central/southern Iraq has provided a unique opportunity for the Kurds to take over Kirkuk in order to protect it from Sunni insurgents. However, what will change in this scenario is the security of Iraqi Kurdistan, which has until now managed to keep its borders tight and its internal security impressive. This will change because the new borders it is creating with the near takeover of Kirkuk are challenged by clashes with insurgents, which will mean that the interior may no longer be the safe haven it has long been for international businesspeople.
Suddenly, in this atmosphere, the Kurdish position has become very clear, even in official statements. The referendum is expected to be held “in a matter of months”. The official partitioning of Iraq has begun in earnest,…