• Amberin Zaman, Public Policy Fellow, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
  • Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Representative to the United States of America
  • Hardin Lang, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress


  • Sasha Toperich, Senior Fellow, CTR – SAIS

For better or worse, it is hard to escape [the] conclusion that the future of Iraqi Kurds lies with their integration into Iraqi state [..]. In terms of regional stability, it is probably preferable that [the] Kurdish independence movement does not succeed.” Thus opined an American diplomat stationed in Baghdad in a secret cable dated July 1, 1973. Forty-three years on, the official U.S. policy—that Iraq needs to remain territorially intact—has not changed. But there is growing recognition that after decades of dogged, if at times unorthodox, efforts to build their own state, the Iraqi Kurds are on the cusp of formally declaring independence. It is no longer a matter of “if” but “when.” And the United States, as much as Iraq’s neighbors—Iran, Turkey, and Syria, which have restive Kurdish populations of their own—needs to be ready when Iraqi Kurdistan, the first real Kurdish state in the modern sense, is born. Most importantly, so do the Kurds.