Steven Cook weighs in on the prospects for Kurdish independence. He’s less bullish than most:
For all the confidence in Erbil, the Kurds have a host of significant problems that seriously complicate the establishment of an independent Kurdistan. The Kurds have enjoyed something that looks a lot like a state for the past three decades, but they have never actually had the responsibilities of a state. Even as they railed against Baghdad for routinely bilking them out of large amounts of the 17 percent share of government revenue they were supposed to receive, they were still dependent on the central government. The answer is obviously oil revenues, which are promising, but it is clear that with legal challenges and capacity issues, it is no panacea. The Kurds will be living hand-to-mouth for quite some time.
There is a lot of oil and a fair number of Western oil guys hanging around the Divan and Rotana hotels, but beyond that there seems to be very little economic activity in Kurdistan. Erbil is notable for its half-finished construction sites, including a shell of what is slated to be a JW Marriott and some of those exclusive have-it-all-in-one-place developments that cater to expats and super wealthy locals all around the Middle East. The Kurds clearly envision Erbil to be the next Dubai, but it is not even Amman yet. There are shops and some good restaurants, but no real banks to finance development. Other than oil, the Kurds do not produce much of anything.