As Iraqi Kurdistan exports oil northward to Turkey through its own pipeline despite dire warnings from Baghdad about the consequences of such independent action, the prospect of a collision between Iraq’s central government and the semiautonomous Kurds increases. But as parliamentary elections loom in April, with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki seeking a third term amid a swelling al-Qaida insurgency raging in western Iraq, Baghdad may not be in a position to get tough right now or pick a fight with the restive Kurds and their new ally Turkey. Analysts have long speculated that the likely outcome of the Kurds’ defiance is that they could eventually declare their enclave across Iraq’s three northern provinces an independent state. The fear is that other regions, particularly the south, which contains two-thirds of Iraq’s oil reserves of 143.1 billion barrels, will also want greater autonomy from a […]