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For Iraqi Kurds, Trump Brings Hope for Independence

Why the New Administration Inspires Optimism

Kurdish Peshmerga forces celebrate Newroz Day, a festival marking spring and the new year, in Kirkuk, Iraq, March 2017. Ako Rasheed / REUTERS

On April 2, two of the main political parties in Iraqi Kurdistan—the Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan—issued a joint statement announcing their commitment to hold a referendum on Kurdish independence. The two parties are often at odds with one another, but it appears that with the battle for Mosul entering its bitter end, and after nearly three years of continuous war against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), Iraqi Kurds believe that the time is right to cash in their hard-won political chips.

Kurdistan’s leaders know that independence will not come easy. In particular, Turkey and Iran are bound to try to block such efforts given their concerns about their own Kurdish populations’ aspirations. The United States, meanwhile, has historically shunned the idea of breaking apart the Iraqi state out of fear of setting a precedent for secessionism throughout the region. Even intra-Kurdish disputes

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