The Kurds played their cards in the Iraqi mess exceptionally well. They never threatened independence until Baghdad was too unstable to do anything about it.

Even now, the Kurds offer one last olive branch of sorts, an offer for a “decentralized” Iraq as opposed to independent nations, but only on condition that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki steps down, and Sunnis get more control.

Please consider Kurds’ Deputy PM Talabani Calls for Decentralized Iraq

Iraq and its foreign backers must abandon a centralised system of governance if the country is to survive, Iraqi Kurdistan’s deputy prime minister has said, warning that his semi-autonomous region would gain de facto independence if the slide into chaos continues.

“We have to get our minds off of this notion that a strong central government can govern this country, because it can’t,” he [Qubad Talabani] told the Financial Times in an interview. “We’re past that. We tried that. We had some competent Sunni ministers in the government . . . it didn’t provide adequate representation to the people in those [Sunni] territories.”

KRG president and head of the region’s dominant Kurdistan Democratic party, Masoud Barzani, openly stated last week that Kirkuk would remain under Kurdish control and that independence could be near, hinting it may be time for a referendum on the issue.

Mr Talabani, who is from the rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party, was more circumspect, saying the Kurds still hoped to make a deal in Baghdad.

The two main parties in Kurdistan have a power-sharing agreement where they alternate between the premiership and deputy posts.

Kurds and Sunni are adamant that their participation depends on an end to Mr Maliki’s eight-year rule, and the appointment of a new premier who will negotiate. It is not yet clear if majority Shia politicians will agree on an alternative candidate.

Even if Maliki goes along, Masoud Barzani, the Kurds president favors independence. Expect a referendum on independence soon if  Maliki does not step down, and perhaps even if he does.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock