The Kurdish people of Iraq aren’t going to take any more negotiation over the proposed new constitution – they want autonomy within a new Iraq, full stop. It’s not quite secession yet, but an autonomous state in an historically acrimonious situation, is but a sneeze away from a breakaway for complete independence. The demand for autonomy rather than secession straightaway is merely a realistic, less confrontational and gradual step towards their own nation - as the Chinese would say, "man man lai."
I don’t blame the Kurds. Of all the major ethnic groups in the world, they are the only one without a homeland. Secondly, they have been oppressed severely by Saddam Hussein, with many gassed by the Mother of them all, with American supplied intelligence and technology, and German(?) gas.
Firstly, the Iraqi Kurds have rejected the proposal in the new constitution that the new Iraqi, or whatever new name it will call itself, be proclaimed as an Islamic state. Even though they are Muslims themselves the Kurds don't fancy a theocratic state with a council of Shiite ayatollahs deciding the future of their autonomous state. Ayatollahs have a habit of claiming Allah says this or that to them, without anyone else ever hearing those dictates of the Almighty.
Secondly, they have insisted on federalism which in itself automatically recognizes the autonomy of the proposed Kurdish state. The reason is obvious, and has been discussed as a 'man man lai' tactic.
Thirdly, they have refused to compromise on their demand for oil-rich Kirkuk to become an integral part of their autonomous region. In terms of national revenue, I wonder whether the Shiites, who may be expected to dominate the new government will even countenance this, for 2 reasons - (1) the nation needs the revenue, which should not be for the exclusive use of one province, (2) it's dangerous allowing an autonomous province too much money in its own pockets.
Fourthly, they will not allow the incorporation of the 100,000 strong Kurdish peshmerga militia, its ethnic army, into the national Iraqi army. The Kurds want to maintain the peshmerga as its independent militia, under the sole control of the Kurdish state government. The peshmerga will ensure Kurdistan can decide its own future, and will undoubtedly form the core of its army, should or rather when it breaks away as an independent Kurdistan.
The Americans have trained and equipped the Kurdish peshmerga and use them in preference to other ethnic composed militia. A 100,000 strong militia that is trained and well equipped can be a giant headache to the new Iraqi government.
The issue of the peshmerga is singularly the most obvious sign that the Kurds will not be prepared to toe the central government’s lines in a new Iraq, unless it suits Kurdish interests. This will be a very sticky issue to solve.
Fifth, the Kurds have refused to accept that Iraq constitution or identity should be Islamic. This may set them at odds with the majority Shiites.
Sixth, they rejected suggestions that Iraq be termed an Arab nation.
Iraqi Kurds constitute 20% of the population, about 4.5 million people. Their leader, Massoud Barzani has not disguised his intention when he refers to Kurds and Kurdistan. He believes this is the only opportunity for the Kurds to be in charge of their own destiny, purportedly within a loose federation of whatever Iraq turns out to be, with the oil-rich Kirkurk area to draw upon, and the Americans to support them (for Kirkuk's oil) and possibly the Israelis too (for Kurdistan's water and oil).
I personally support the Kurds in their ambition for their own homeland. These children of Saladin the Great deserve to control their own destiny. Unfortunately, the Americans and the Israelis are there, riding on their back to exploit them and their resources.
Across its borders, a fretful and hungry Turkey will be frowning and licking its lips as it views a new Kurdistan with both alarm and greed. Turkey has its own home grown Kurdish insurgency, and a neighbouring indepedent Kurdish nation spells mucho problem for its territorial integrity and national security. Turkey has often publicly vowed it would not tolerate a Kurdistan in Iraq.
But in the end, it will be the degree of compromise the majority Shiites are prepared to extend to the Kurds. The two most difficult factors for the Shiites to accept are, in my opinion, the concession to the Kurds of the oil-rich area of Kirkuk and its revenue, and permitting them to maintain the peshmerga.
Accepting these two Kurdish conditions will be akin to surrendering the entire province to the Kurds to form a new nation, completely independent of the new Iraq. It would be akin to, or as stupid as France or Russia respectively selling off Louisana and Alaska to you know who.
The Shiites would undoubtedly be assessing their difficult options, either to accept the loss of an independent Kurdistan or engage in decades-long civil war. The situation is that more complicated as there will be more than two parties involved, for the USA, Israel, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the local Sunnis would want to have a say too.
(1) The Break Up of Iraq?
(2) US in Iraq – The Beginning of The End
(3) US Laying Grounds for Kurdistan?
(4) US Secret Strategy for Iraq
(5) Constitutional Deadlock Indicates Iraq’s Ominous Future