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Kurdish drive for independence delayed by fight against Islamic State

Kurds are spread across a wide area that spans Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran — but it is in Iraq where Kurds have had the greatest autonomy, especially since the U.S. invasion of 2003 freed them to build their own region within Iraq.

The long-simmering issue of an independent Kurdistan was reignited earlier this summer as the Islamic State militant group onslaught began, and the Kurds defended their region unlike many Iraqi units that had surrendered, ceding wide swaths of Iraq to the extremists.

President Barack Obama’s decision to conduct initial airstrikes in August to protect the Kurdish regional capital in Erbil, stopped the Islamic State group’s advance before the gleaming desert city could be invaded — as the Iraqi city of Mosul, just 60 miles to the west, had been in June.

Today, Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff to Kurdistan’s regional president, Masoud Barzani, spoke with Margaret Warner about the Kurds’ drive for greater autonomy and where initial steps to conduct a referendum on leaving Iraq — and declaring independence — stand as the stability of the Iraqi state hangs in the balance.

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