If President Trump continues to remain silent on the Kurdistan referendum, he risks botching the most consequential moment for American national interests in the Middle East this century.
Should the Kurds of northern Iraq succeed in their independence ambitions, it would create the possibility for the rise of the first secular, liberal nation in the Middle East since Israel’s 1948 declaration of statehood. Now is the time for President Trump to act decisively and back this movement before it’s too late and a momentous opportunity falls by the wayside.
This weekend, the Kurdish people started voting on whether to secede the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of northern Iraq from Baghdad and become an independent state of Kurdistan. Currently, the results show that about 92 percent of Kurds support the creation of an independent Kurdistan.
Infuriated Arab states and Iran have issued ultimatums against the Kurdish government, demanding they stop the secession movement at once, or risk military conflict. A rapidly metastasizing vacuum of American leadership is causing U.S. allies and adversaries to seize the opportunity in an attempt to choke off the blossoming statehood movement.
Turkish autocrat Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened a blockade to starve the people of the autonomous region. He also threatened military action should the KRG proceed with the referendum.
"If [KRG President Masoud] Barzani and the Kurdish Regional Government do not go back on this mistake as soon as possible, they will go down in history with the shame of having dragged the region into an ethnic and sectarian war," Erdogan said in a speech Tuesday.