But millions of Kurds also live in Iran - which itself fought sporadic insurgent actions by groups like the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) - and Tehran and Ankara have often cooperated to stem the rise of Kurdish nationalism.
Washington has repeatedly offered to help negotiate a long-term settlement between Arbil and Baghdad, but regional leaders - including Barzani - have been increasingly frustrated that warm words have not led to a precise diplomatic timetable. Since 2014, the KRG has been exporting oil to the world via Turkey after cutting Baghdad out of the loop.
Turkish troops dug in on the southern border on Tuesday and turned their weapons toward Kurdish-run northern Iraq.
The Kurds were able to use the war against ISIL to seize portions of Iraq, such as Kirkuk.
"It's chaotic there", Muhammad Mahdi al-Bayati, a senior leader of Iraq's mostly Shiite fighters known as the popular mobilization forces, said earlier this week, describing Kirkuk in the lead up to the vote. And we don't have to look back particularly far to find better days between the two.
The Kurdistan Region of Iraq, also called Iraqi Kurdistan, is an autonomous region, with its status enshrined in the country's constitution.
The spokeswoman acknowledged the Kurds have "legitimate grievances", but argued these would be better addressed in U.S. and UN-mediated talks and reiterated that the USA is "strongly opposed" to the referendum. So how can we explain the change in Ankara's political tone, which has now come to dominate the headlines?
On Monday, September 18, Iraq's Supreme Court, referring to "complaints" it had received, ordered the suspension of the referendum while it examines whether the voting would be constitutional.
Borders and military forces would remain in their current positions, and Baghdad would authorize Kurdistan to continue exporting the oil that it now ships through Turkey in breach of the federal constitution.
He said, "The regional government led by the Iraqi Kurdish President Massoud Barzani misinterpreted the West and thought their alliance with the West gave them the sense of legitimacy for kicking off the one-sided process which they started without consulting the opposition in the parliament".
On Friday, Iraqi Kurdish lawmakers approved holding of the secession vote in the face of fierce opposition from the central government in Baghdad, the United Nations and the US.
Turkey has campaigned against the independence vote, which is scheduled for September 25. "We bring crude oil from Iraq, but just as many trucks are carrying goods from Istanbul and all around Turkey to Iraq", he said.