Remember Iraq?

At Al-Monitor Amberin Zaman reports that the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) prime minister has reached out to President Biden, asking him to intercede on behalf of the region with the Baghdad government:

Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Masrour Barzani has appealed to President Joe Biden to intervene in a deepening crisis with the central government in Baghdad, airing fears that the Kurdistan Region might even collapse as an entity if the crisis is left unchecked, Al-Monitor has learned.

In a letter dated Sept. 3 that was addressed to Biden and delivered to the White House only this past Sunday, Barzani wrote, “I write to you now at another critical juncture in our history, one that I fear we may have difficulty overcoming. …[W]e are bleeding economically and hemorrhaging politically. For the first time in my tenure as prime minister, I hold grave concerns that this dishonorable campaign against us may cause the collapse of … the very model of a Federal Iraq that the United States sponsored in 2003 and purported to stand by since.”

“We believe that your administration retains significant leverage with Baghdad,” Barzani said of Washington’s ability to diffuse the crisis.

The cri de coeur comes amid escalating tensions between Erbil and Baghdad over budgetary allocations, oil sales and territories that both sides claim for their own. Barzani reiterated his calls for further US engagement to help resolve the disputes in a meeting on Monday in Erbil with US Ambassador to Iraq Alina Romanowski.

The underlying problem is the same one that has been there since Saddam. The area around Kirkuk produces quite a bit of oil and the Kurds think they deserve more of the proceeds. It’s not all about the oil, however. Arabs vs. Kurds. Shi’ites vs. Sunnis. Political differences.

Iraq became our responsibility when we invaded 20 years ago. Try as we might extricating ourselves fully remains difficult. The landlocked KRG territory is not really a viable country on its own, especially not if opposed by the much more populous Shi’ite south.

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