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Iraqi Kurdistan Is Booming. Will It Ever Be a Separate State?
|Last Edited||ArmyDem Dec 22, 2011 09:53pm|
|Media||Weekly News Magazine - New Republic, The|
|News Date||Friday, December 23, 2011 05:00:00 AM UTC0:0|
|Description||Larry Diamond |
December 22, 2011 | 12:00 am
As American troops withdraw from Iraq, anyone searching for rays of progress amid the country’s miasma of corruption, sectarian strife, and political stalemate might look to the foothills of Sulaimaniyah, Kurdistan. There, rising rapidly out of some 400 dusty acres, is a gleaming constellation of glass, steel, and Jerusalem stone that is the new campus of American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS). The venture, which now educates some 500 Iraqi students on the American model, is a sign of Iraqi Kurdistan’s evolution toward a modern, flourishing society. But when I visited the American University this past November, there seemed to be one question on the minds of nearly every Kurdish student I met: When can we get a separate state of Kurdistan?
It’s understandable why Kurds are asking this question. Seeing all the construction cranes in Erbil and Sulaimaniyah, the bustling markets and the passionate youth, one gets the sense that Iraqi Kurdistan is itself living through a protracted spring—a moment of economic and political opportunity unprecedented in the modern history of the long-suffering Kurdish people (who, with some 25 to 30 million Kurds spread across four Middle Eastern states, are widely considered to be the largest stateless people in the world).
Beyond the university, Kurdistan is booming, with an estimated economic growth rate for next year predicted to be as high as 12 percent. Investment is pouring in, not just from a vast array of Turkish companies, but from American oil companies like Exxon, and from construction, hotel, and retail companies throughout the Arab world. If the claims of the Kurdistan Regional Government are correct—that it possesses 45 billion barrels of oil reserves—it would rank sixth in the world in oil wealth.