"When have we ever had stability and security that we should be concerned about losing it? When was Iraq so united that we should be worried about breaking its unity? Those who are saying this are just looking for excuses to stop us... We were hoping the constitution could unite us, but it didn't happen. So many rules were neglected. So now it is our right to seek independence."The thing is, regardless of where you stand on the Kurdish referendum or the territorial integrity of the Iraqi nation-state, Barzani has a point. As of 2011, a viable political settlement was in place to balance the interests of Iraq's three largest population groups: the Shiite Arabs, the Sunni Arabs, and the Kurds. I watched the American withdrawal from a vantage point in the Gulf in 2011; and I was there in early 2012 when Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, lacking American support, found himself subject to influence from Tehran. The result was the violation of the Iraqi constitution, a collapse of the political settlement, the persecution of Sunni Arabs and their leaders by Baghdad, and the de facto abdication of Baghdad's obligations to the Kurds. In the case of the Sunni Arabs, this left them receptive to the promises from DAESH, empty though they turned out to be, that they had learned their lesson and were ready to bring Iraq's Sunni population into a new caliphate. In the case of the Kurds, they found themselves under assault by DAESH, without the backup that Baghdad owed them. That included protecting Kirkuk from DAESH while cities like Mosul were overrun, forcing Arab forces - including a lot of heavy lifting by Tehran-sponsored Shiite militias - to root DAESH out, house by house.