Last January, the government of the historical leader of the KDP party and president of Iraqi Kurdistan since 2005, Masud Barzani, began exporting oil from Iraqi Kurdistan through Turkey, thanks to a recently constructed oil duct, despite opposition from Baghdad.
In practice, Iraqi Kurdistan operates as an independent country, with its own flag and visas, dominated by the peshmergas and maintains good relations with Turkey, the major investor and supplier of oil and other goods.
After the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, the Kurdish militias of the KDP and PUK parties have established their control over almost all of Iraqi Kurdistan, although excluding Mosul, ethnically mixed, and without regaining Kirkuk – considered by the Kurds to be their historical capital and coveted for its oilfields. Two years later Yalal Talabani was elected president of Iraq and one later the historical leader of the KDP party in the north, Masud Barzani became the president of a Kurdistan recognized by Baghdad as an autonomous region.
The division between the influential zone of the KDP party to the north – with its capital in Erbil – and the PUK to the south – with its center of operations in Sulaimanyia – persists and the tension around Kirkuk remains, manifested by occasional battles. As a result of the Arab Spring, a group of young people took a public square in in Sulaimanyia in February 2011 and demanded political reforms, similar to the Tahrir’s encampment in Cairo, denouncing the corruption and nepotism of both the KDP and the PUK; without a doubt, the protest hasn’t caught on yet in Erbil, and the commotion in Sulaimanyia was quashed just weeks later.
Masud Barzani, solidly settled in power, has strengthened his ties with Turkey even more than before, and even more by exporting oil from Iraqi Kurdistan through the recently inaugurated oil duct.