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  • The Kurds

    from the LA TIMES

    COMMENTARY

    Iraqi Kurds May Want to Go Their Own Way
    Risking independence would be less perilous than the mayhem of civil war.

    By Rajan Menon
    Rajan Menon is a professor of international relations at Lehigh University.

    April 12, 2004

    The key to Iraq's future is not its rebellious Sunni center or its increasingly turbulent Shiite south; it's the relatively stable Kurdish north, the area where American policy has been most successful. If you're a Kurdish leader in northern Iraq watching the mess unfolding in the rest of the country, these are the questions increasingly running through your mind: How long before we Kurds give up on a united Iraq and choose independence? Why stay part of Iraq and risk being drawn into the out-of-control maelstrom overtaking the rest of the country?

    Iraqi Kurdistan is stable and democratic. It has a vibrant civil society, independent newspapers and citizens groups, and greater opportunities for women in public life than in other parts of Iraq. Economic reconstruction is progressing at a faster clip; markets are bustling; basic goods and services are available.

    True, Kurdistan has not been free from violence — it experienced several terrorist attacks this year — but compared with the rest of Iraq it is a zone of peace with good governance and a reliable, experienced local security force, the peshmerga.

    What's worrisome for the Kurds is that Iraq's mayhem is no longer confined to the famed Sunni Triangle and its wild towns — Fallouja, Ramadi and Tikrit — but is taking root in the Shiite regions as well. The axiom has been that the U.S. can keep Iraq whole so long as the Shiite majority is cooperative. But the honeymoon is ending.

    With the November presidential election looming, George W. Bush, who ignored the United Nations and went to war, now desperately wants the U.N. to help keep the peace. And he is eager to turn over the house keys to an Iraqi government on June 30 to show American voters that progress is being made. But what Kurd would believe that an Iraqi authority can keep order when the United States could not? And can Kurds be confident that U.S. troops would stay on in force if the current violence escalates?

    Kurdish leaders hoped a pact with the Shiites might make it possible for Kurds to remain within Iraq on acceptable terms. The Kurds had dreamed about their own state but settled on autonomy because it was practical. Not even the Kurds' biggest champions, the Americans, would deliver on the dream — and for obvious reasons.

    Iraq's breakup would enrage Turkey, which fears that an independent Iraqi Kurdish state would attract its own 12 million to 14 million Kurds. Iraq's fragmentation also would prove that Washington's vision of a united and democratic Iraq was a pipe dream. It would make the war an even bigger political problem for Bush by destroying the argument his administration has now fallen back on — that even if no weapons of mass destruction are found, a united, free Iraq justifies the war. It would set off a free-for-all among Iraq's neighbors to pick off parts of its carcass.

    Kurdish leaders understand all this and know that choosing independence remains a risky gambit. But if Iraq continues its downward spiral, they will find the downsides less daunting.

    For one thing, a deal with the Shiites seems increasingly problematic. The young firebrand cleric Muqtada Sadr demands an Islamic state, lambastes the occupation and mobilizes his Al Mahdi army against it. He lacks the stature and popularity enjoyed by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, but he has forced Sistani to take a tough line on Iraq's proposed constitution, specifically the provisions aimed at giving minorities a say. Because Sistani has to prevent his parvenu rival from outflanking him, Kurds will find it harder to reach an accommodation with the Shiites.

    Moreover, if the Kurds opt to stay within an Iraq that descends into chaos, they cannot impose strict border controls, and Kirkuk and other Kurdish cities will suffer violence on the same scale as the rest of Iraq.

    After decades of torture, mass executions, forced relocation and chemical attacks by Saddam Hussein's monstrous regime, the Kurds have a chance to chart their destiny. So far, they have followed the American script. But now there are three possibilities: an Iraq convulsed by violence for years to come; a Shiite-dominated Iraq; or an Iraq that fragments. The first two variants will make the Kurds' lives worse. The path to the third is perilous, but the increasing upheaval makes it increasingly necessary to contemplate.

    No Kurdish leader will say so publicly, but if Iraq's turmoil worsens and the U.S. loses control, separatist thoughts in Kurdistan will produce separatist deeds. Iraq will then end up in pieces: a Kurdish north, a Sunni center and a Shiite south. And the Bush administration's blueprint for a democratic Iraq that transforms the Middle East's landscape will be buried in the rubble.
    The Dude abides.

  • #2
    well, they deserve it. They've been loyal to us for many years, it would be a bit ridiculous to thow them to the shi'a wolves.
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    • #3
      Well, you know, good points all, but somewhere along the line Iraqis are going to have to take responsibility for their own shithole nation and give some evidence they're interested in having it become something other than a shithole nation.

      If not, Saddam is still alive, and we can always give him back to them.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Reggie Cleveland@Apr 12 2004, 03:01 PM
        Well, you know, good points all, but somewhere along the line Iraqis are going to have to take responsibility for their own shithole nation and give some evidence they're interested in having it become something other than a shithole nation.

        If not, Saddam is still alive, and we can always give him back to them.
        well..the Kurds have done a fine job of administering themselves for the last ten years....the north is safe...let them have their own country.
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        • #5
          I don't think fragmentation would be the worst option. I don't blame the Kurds. I'm not sure Iraq is a "natural" country anyway.
          "Need some wood?" -- George W. Bush, October 8, 2004

          "Historians will judge if this war is just, not your punk ass." -- Dave Glover, December 8, 2004

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          • #6
            First you need a way to divvy up oil rights.
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            • #7
              We never hear about the Kurdish north...seems like they're off everyone's radar screen...
              The Dude abides.

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              • #8
                well..there are three oil fields in areas that are pretty much held by a different distinct ethnic group....i'm all for fragmentation.
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                • #9
                  I didn't read the whole article, but apparently Turkey is VERY against a Kurdish nation because of the possibility of part of Turkey trying to secede to join it.
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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by SLUBLUE@Apr 12 2004, 02:59 PM
                    well, they deserve it. They've been loyal to us for many years, it would be a bit ridiculous to thow them to the shi'a wolves.
                    Very true, but in a realpolitik sense, our relations with the Turks far outweigh the value of those with the Kurds.
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                    • #11
                      Turkey had their chance before the war.

                      Screw what they think.
                      And, frankly, it has never occured to me that "winning" a debate is important, or that I should be hurt when someone like Airshark or kah, among others (for whom winning a pseudo debate or declaring intellectual superiority over invisible others is obviously very important) ridicule me.

                      -The Artist formerly known as King in KC

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                      • #12
                        From what I've heard before Turkey wouldn't let there be an independent Kurd nation as a large chunk of its borders is Kurdish culture.

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                        Why are the Russians suddenly a problem?" -Bgats

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by BringBackZezel@Apr 12 2004, 03:07 PM
                          I didn't read the whole article, but apparently Turkey is VERY against a Kurdish nation because of the possibility of part of Turkey trying to secede to join it.
                          This is an understatement. There exists a very real possibility of Turkish military intervention in northern Iraq should the Kurds declare an independent Kurdistan.
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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Infidel+Apr 12 2004, 02:11 PM-->
                            QUOTE (Infidel @ Apr 12 2004, 02:11 PM)

                          • #15
                            One day, the liberals will understand how much ethnicity actually means to people - despite all their PC efforts to deny it.
                            And, frankly, it has never occured to me that "winning" a debate is important, or that I should be hurt when someone like Airshark or kah, among others (for whom winning a pseudo debate or declaring intellectual superiority over invisible others is obviously very important) ridicule me.

                            -The Artist formerly known as King in KC

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