Michael J. Totten has an excellent look at the rising power of Iraqi Kurdistan. I think that it is inevitable that the Iraqi Kurds end up with the best deal in this war — once they’re economically independent, I’m not sure they’d care if the rest of Iraq goes to hell. The reason why people don’t hear about suicide bombings or beheadings there is because those things just don’t happen in Iraqi Kurdistan.
That doesn’t mean that the glass facade of Erbil is the whole of the story — the Kurds still do have some outstanding issues with the persecution of minorities within Iraqi Kurdistan, and to their credit the major Kurdish parties have done some things to ameliorate those concerns, but Kurdistan is quite democratic compared with the rest of Iraq, but not quite a Western-style democracy yet.
Still, the Kurds give us an idea of what the rest of Iraq could be once the violence simmers down. 10 years ago the Kurds had their bloody civil war, and they’re only now truly recovering from years of violence under the Hussein regime. Instead of turning their oil wealth into a tool of oppression, it’s going towards the construction of a more livable community and new infrastructure — and the rest of the world is certainly taking notice.
If the Sunnis and the Shi’a could end their bitter fighting, Baghdad could be the next Dubai — or at least the next Erbil. However, that cannot happen when powers such as Iran and Syria continue to exacerbate the fighting in Iraq. Iraq must have sovereignty and security — things which Iraqi Kurdistan have — before it can start to develop. Hopefully the al-Maliki government will find the strength to pull Iraq back from the precipice of abject anarchy, or Iraqi Kurdistan may only be an island of development in a blighted land.