The Kurds have pressed for their own nation state for more than a century, but that movement gained momentum after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the rise of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, that followed.
Kurdish fighters were among the most effective troops for the Iraqi government during the Iraq War, and they have easily been the most successful force on the ground against ISIS, which swept the regular Iraqi army from the field in 2014.
“In the summer of 2014, Kurdish forces exploited the collapse of the Iraqi army in northern parts of the country to move into areas claimed both by the region and by federal authorities, especially oil-rich Kirkuk. The central government remains unlikely to accept this presence,” Eurasia Group said.
Kurdistan includes parts of Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria. Kurdish independence is opposed by every major player in the region — even including the United States, which has fought closely alongside the Kurds since 2003.
“The Kurds have no friends — Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Russia, and the U.S., among others, have decried their independence push,” Kilduff said.
—CNBC’s Patti Domm contributed to this report