Trump's Silver Lining In Iraq by Peter Van Buren, Reuters
Will the defeat of Islamic State in Iraq be a foreign policy victory for Donald Trump? With the fall of Mosul imminent, what happens next?
There will be winners, like the Kurds. There will be losers, like Iraq’s Sunni minority. There will be gains for Iran, which backs the Shi’ite militias drafted to fight Sunni-dominated IS. And there may be a silver lining for the Trump administration - specifically in the form of Kurdish independence and permanent American bases in a Shi’ite-ruled Iraq. But any declaration of “victory” on the part of the United States depends on how the measure of those results is taken.
Start with the Kurds. Their military forces currently control a swath of northern territory, including the oil-rich province of Kirkuk. The area has been a functional confederacy since soon after the American invasion of 2003 and in spite of likely opposition from Baghdad, a fully-realized nation-state of Kurdistan seems inevitable. The Kurds certainly think so; they’ll hold an independence referendum on September 25.
Previous U.S. administrations restrained Kurdish ambitions, trying to keep “Iraq” more or less as it was within its 2003 borders. George W. Bush, and to a lesser extent Barack Obama, wished for a unified Iraq as a symbol, the conclusion of the invasion narrative of eliminating Saddam Hussein and establishing a new semi-secular ally in the heart of the Middle East. A unified Iraq that enveloped the Kurds was also sought by NATO ally Turkey, which feared an independent Kurdish state on its disputed eastern border…