A region once held up by the US as a beacon of hope in a broken Iraq, Kurdistan has instead — in oil’s name — fallen victim to corruption and war.
About 80 percent of Iraqi Kurdistan’s economy is dependent on oil revenue. Pipelines twist like arteries through villages all over the region. The dream was that the abundant and mostly untapped oil reserves in northern Iraq could be the foundation of a prosperous and vibrant corner of an otherwise deeply insecure region. This was the strategy promoted by the United States and other world powers both before and after the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The Kurds rely on this oil not only to feed its people, but to secure its autonomy from a succession of politically hostile governments in Baghdad. The oil in Kirkuk Province represents the Kurdish dream of full independence from a central authority that at one point attempted to eradicate their ethnic group.
But like so many other parts of the world that are home to deep stores of the valuable resource, the opposite came to be. Iraqi Kurdistan instead became mired in political infighting, otherworldly levels of corruption, and all-out conflict. And so the vision of a hopeful future was revealed for what it was all along: a pipe dream.