Editorial: Ramadi Drama & A Kurdish Probletunity

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Tim Haïdar

As the control of the central Iraqi city of Ramadi fell to militants of the Islamic State, the Iraqi government had to face a sobering reality: the possible loss of Baghdad.

Sitting around 110 kilometres to the east of Baghdad, Ramadi has always occupied a position of strategic importance. Nestled on the Euphrates and the road west into Syria and Jordan, it has been an artery for trade and transportation for centuries, making it a sought after staging post for warring factions.

A counteroffensive has been launched by Iraqi Forces to recapture the city, and with the prospect of a protracted battle in the offing, the outcome is far from foregone. Major territorial gains in the Fertile Crescent have turned the already alarmed heads of several regional leaders, not least of which is Masoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

The Kurds have been in front line pitched combat with Islamic State since 2013, have undergone alleged chemical attacks and seen their major city of Mosul rendered into the hands of the jihadists.

The sporadic inability of a hamstrung Iraqi government to honour payments and budget distributions to the regions, has forced - or allowed - Barzani to lay down the gauntlet. Speaking this weekend, Barzani affirmed that a failure to comply with the accord that binds the central government to its autonomous regions, will mean that the Kurdish people: "will be selling our own oil and collecting our own revenue".

Should Baghdad be menaced with deadly force in the coming weeks and months, it may provide the impetus for a severing of ties between Kurdistan and the Iraqi state. And that could entrain another regional flashpoint – the push towards a consolidated Kurdish state in the Middle East, that would be the tenth largest holder of oil in the world....