While the rest of Iraq remains in a near constant state of turmoil and violence, the provinces of the northern Kurdistan region of Iraq provide a welcome respite.

But it is Turkish investment, not to mention Turkish contractors that have established the sparkling new airports in Erbil and Dohuk, along with a growing number of hotels. Hundreds of road tankers already cross the border from Iraq’s Kurdish north carrying crude, and in a few months a permanent pipeline could be in place, further cementing ties with Ankara.

Oil and gas sales across the border mean the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) could become Turkey’s key economic partner. In turn, an independent Kurdistan could become a buffer for Turkey against an emerging Arab Iraq and Iranian influence in the region.

It is perhaps a sign of how far Turkish and Kurdish relations have moved on that a group of Turks and Iraqi Kurds gathered outside the Turkish consulate in Erbil in mid-June, waving red flags and pictures of the embattled Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while he faced protests in Istanbul. Just a few years ago, the two flags would have never been seen together. The militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has been engaged in an armed struggle against the Turkish state from its mountain bases in Iraq has until recently been the main stumbling block for the prospects of long-term friendship with Turkey. A deal earlier this year to bring an end to a 30-year war against the PKK in Turkey could accelerate relations between the two. 

The sight of Kalashnikov carrying armed men and women crossing the border will have been yet another cause for consternation in Baghdad. It and the KRG have been at loggerheads for some years now, but the concerns of the federal government seem to carrying less weight in Erbil these days. The region is too busy carving out its own path to independence to look back.