After proving their mettle against the ISIL fighters that are threatening Iraq's stability, Kurdistan takes first step toward declaring its independence from Baghdad. Deborah Gembara reports.
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In the Kurdish parliament in Arbil, the sort of chatter that will strike fear in the hearts of Baghdad and Washington...
(SOUNDBITE) (Kurdish) KURDISH PRESIDENT, MASSOUD BARZANI, SAYING:
"The time has come for us to determine our own fate, and we must not wait for others to determine it for us."
Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region called on parliament to take the first steps toward complete autonomy...
SOUNDBITE) (Kurdish) KURDISH PRESIDENT, MASSOUD BARZANI, SAYING:
"For that reason, I consider it necessary ... to create an independent electoral commission as a first step and, second, to make preparations for a referendum."
It's bad news for Baghdad which is battling to keep Iraq together in the face of an insurgency by Sunni militants.
The early days of the uprising exposed gaping holes in Iraq's military. While their forces abandoned their posts, Kurdish forces in the north managed to keep ISIL fighters at bay. For the first time, Baghdad was looking to the Kurds to defend the country.
It was a power shift that did not go unnoticed by Barzani, who has often been at odds with Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki.
Kurdish forces, also known as Peshmerga, have in recent weeks expanded their turf.
Many in the west see a strong Baghdad as key to a stable Iraq and are pressing Shi'ite Maliki to reach out to Sunnis and Kurds.
Their fear is -- if Kurdistan declares independence, it will signal open season in Iraq.
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