Kurdish popular sentiment strongly favors an independent Kurdistan. In contrast to their followers, however, the leaders of both the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which have been acting in concert for some time now to run northern Iraq, are proceeding very cautiously. At present Kurdistan is effectively autonomous within Iraq, and far more stable and prosperous than the rest of the country. Attempting to establish a separate Kurdish state would bring problems not only with Iraq (which probably couldn't do much about the matter anyway), but also with Turkey and Iran, both of which have restive Kurdish minorities. And the U.S. would probably be very unhappy about the move as well, as it would be a serious blow to American efforts to create a stable Iraq. Nevertheless, the two parties are reported to have had discussions about opting for independence in the event of a Sunni-Shia civil war in Iraq.
Should it come to a fight, the Kurds probably have some of the most capable military forces of any of the factions in Iraq, and that includes the government. The PUK has some 40,000 militiamen, and the KDP has nearly 60,000. In addition, between them the two groups have about 50,000 reservists as well. Most of the militiamen are armed and trained as motorized light infantry, and organized into brigades of 5,000-8,000. Several "armored" brigades are either in existence or being formed, equipped with Soviet tanks, APCs, and artillery. There is also a small, but effective artillery corps. In addition to these forces, there are an estimated 15,000-20,000 Kurds in the Iraqi Army or National Police, and a further 10,000 or so working for private security organizations.
February 28, 2006: There were apparently new Kurd demonstrations in Iran. Protests took place over the last week in the towns of Maku, Bazargan and Sardasht. There is a lot of unrest in the rural areas of Iran against government corruption. The Iranian government, however, fears Kurdish unrest.
February 27, 2006: The Turkish government believes the PKK will use the March 21-22 Nevruz holiday to launch another series of demonstrations and protests. Nevruz is a Farsi term for "New Day." It is a spring festival that marks a "new year." It is celebrated throughout Turkey but has also taken on political overtones.
February 25, 2006: Turkish troops killed eight PKK Kurd rebels in a series of firefights, over the last few days, in and near the village of Belen (southeastern Turkey).