Kurdish Peshmerga troops prepare to fire a cannon during clashes with militants of the Islamic State in Iraq
Kurdish Peshmerga troops prepare to fire a cannon during clashes with militants of the Islamic State in IraqReuters

Baghdad's weakening in the face of the Islamic State surge has revived the Kurdish dream of independent Kurdistan, but the 'cost of independence' could run into billions of dollars.

Former Kurdish Minister of Higher Education Dlawer Ala'aldeen has said that the cost could be as high as $15 billion and that it can be met through oil exports from the Kurdistan region.

"Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) needs to earn $15b to be totally independent. The KRG & Kirkuk oil [revenues] can soon reach this," Ala'Aldeen, currently the President of the Middle East Institute Research (MERI), tweeted.

This is reportedly the first time anyone has put forth the approximate cost of Kurdistan independence.

"The importance of Ala'Adeen's statement is that it is the first time that someone has explained, in simple terms, the numbers that Kurds need to achieve independence from Baghdad," Kurdish Political Analyst Mashkhal Kawlosi told basnews.

The amount may not seem too daunting even in the backdrop of a slide in global crude prices.

The Iraqi government and the Kurdish regional government announced last week a deal under which Iraqi Kurdistan will give the Iraqi government about 150,000 barrels of oil a day in exchange for $500 million in immediate cash payments for Kurdish salaries, according to Foreign Policy.

Under the 2015 Iraqi federal budget, the Kurds are likely to get to independently sell around half a million barrels of oil a day in the coming year, an Al Jazeera columnist has said.

In what could further irk Baghdad, the Obama administration may also begin directly arming Iraqi Kurds to fight the militant outfit, without sanction from the Iraqi government.

On 20 November, Republican Congressman Ed Royce, chairman of the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs, introduced a piece of legislation to allow Obama administration to "directly provide the Kurdistan Regional Government with advanced conventional weapons, training, and defence services, on an emergency and temporary basis" for a three-year period.

Till now, Washington had to provide weapons and training support to the Kurdistan Regional Government only after consultation with and approval by the Iraqi Ministry of Defence.

This change in attitude towards the Iraqi Kurds could signal growing US acceptance of Iraqi Kurds as more dependable partners in the fight against Islamic State, two months after US Secretary of State John Kerry had said that any military assistance to the Kurds must be sent through Baghdad as per US law.

The legislation identifies Iraqi Kurds as a reliable and stable partner of the United States, and in the long term, could sideline the Iraqi government as America's point of contact to fight the Islamic State.

This  direct security relationship with the US could be the road to de facto autonomy, the Al Jazeera columnist said.