Washington, DC. The American Donald Trump administration has a problem with Turkey and Kurd independence, and given Erdogan just told Trump to remove his US envoy from Turkish soil, it does not look like the problem will end anytime soon.

The Iraqi Kurdish push for independence from Baghdad appears likely to be a question of “not if but when,” in a significant challenge to Iraq’s stability, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency said in Washington on Tuesday.

The DIA’s director, Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, told a Senate hearing that the ability of Iraq’s Kurds to reach an understanding with the Shi’ite-dominated government in Baghdad would be essential to avoid renewed conflict.

“Kurdish independence is on a trajectory where it is probably not if but when. And it will complicate the situation unless there’s an agreement in Baghdad, so this a significant referendum that comes up in October this year.” said Stewart.

Iraqi Kurdish independence has been historically opposed by Iraq and its neighbors, Iran, Turkey and Syria, which fear similar aspirations by their own Kurdish populations.

The Kurds have played a major role in the American backed campaign to defeat Islamic State, the ultra-hard-line Sunni Muslim group that overran about a third of Iraq three years ago.

While the fall of Mosul would effectively end the ISIS “caliphate,” it will not solve deep divisions over power, land and resources between Iraq’s Shi’ite Arab majority and the important Sunni Arab and Kurdish communities.

The Kurds also have historical claims over Kirkuk, which is also inhabited by Turkmen and Arabs. Hard-line Iranian-backed Iraqi Shi’ite militias have threatened to expel the Kurds by force from this region and other disputed areas.

General Stewart warned of dire consequences should Baghdad be unable or unwilling to reach an understanding with the Kurds or the Sunnis.

“Failure to address those challenges, coming up with a political solution, will ultimately result in conflict among all of the parties to resolve this and going back to what could devolve into a civil strife in Iraq,” Stewart said.

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