The Explosion of the Kurdish Crisis
After decades of slow-motion shifts towards Kurdish autonomy/independence/unification, the conflict in this region has shifted into high gear. The Iraqi army has invaded/retaken Kirkuk, which had first been captured by ISIS, then liberated by the Kurdish Peshmerga forces. The inhabitants of the region are almost 50% Kurdish.
The possibility of this had been hanging over the head of the Kurdish forces for weeks. The underlying cause for the invasion is the existence of vast reserves of oil in the region. The spark that set of the explosion was a decision by the Kurdistan Regional Government in Northern Iraq (since 1970 officially an autonomous but not independent region in with its capital at Erbil/Hawler). On September 26 the government in Erbil held a referendum which showed that the vast majority of Kurds in Iraq prefer an independent state for their region.
Then all hell broke loose. The Iraqi army attacked the Pershmerga in Kirkuk with overwhelming force. Iran supported its long-time enemy, Iraq. The US refused to help its long-time allies, the Kurds. Russia looks on "with a lean and hungry look". And everyone wonders if it will stop there.
Kurds and some others interested in the region know how badly the Kurds are divided. A rough estimate by the CIA Factbook has Kurdish populations of 14.5 million in Turkey, 6 million in Iran, about 5 to 6 million in Iraq, and less than 2 million in Syria, which adds up to close to 28 million Kurds in the Kurdistan Regional Government and adjacent Turkey, Iran, Syria. To complicate this picture, millions of Kurds have moved out of the Kurdish Turkish region into other parts of Turkey, especially Istanbul.
And the Iraqi Kurdish region is deeply divided between within itself between forces centered in Erbil, others centered in Sulaymaniya and a new political force challenging the status quo known as Goran. On the edge of all of this are the Kurdish Marxist guerrilla forces, the PKK, that wage an on-again-off-again war against the Turkish army. To top if off, Erbil is at daggers drawn with the Kurdish forces occupying Syria, allied with the PKK.
Many, if not most Kurds, hope that some day there will a country that looks more or less like this. [If you displayed this map in Turkey it could land you in prison.]
At present, the Kurdistan looks like this:
Some people blame this all on President Masoud Barzani of the Kurdish Regional government for overreaching his goals by rushing the referendum.
Some would blame everything on Abdullah Öcalan, the spiritual if not acting leader of the PKK.
There are other candidates: the USA, Iran, Russia, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Israel. My personal opinion is that it is the product of human nature operating in a vacuum.
If this conflict continues and spreads, whole nations could again be devastated.