Iraqi Kurds Closer to Petro State of Their Own

June 20, 2014 12:57 AM

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A force of a few thousand jihadist fighters stunned the world with their June 9 capture of Mosul, the biggest city in Iraq after Baghdad. Flush with looted cash, helicopters, and Humvees, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) soon turned to another target: the oil-rich city of Kirkuk about 100 miles away. As in Mosul, Iraqi government forces stationed in and around the city deserted en masse as the first militants approached. This time, though, the jihadists were sent into retreat as well, repelled by thousands of Peshmerga, or Kurdish troops, who streamed into the area on the heels of the fleeing Iraqi forces. The Kurds of Iraq have always disputed control of multi-ethnic Kirkuk by rulers based in Baghdad. On June 12 they finally took the city and surrounding province for themselves—taking an enormous step toward independence and the long-foretold breakup of Iraq.

For more than two decades, the Kurds have built an autonomous enclave in the north that, with its prosperity and stability, stood in stark contrast to the violence and turmoil of the rest of Iraq. They’ve been on the verge of separating from Iraq for years, held back only by the opposition of neighb...

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