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Author Topic: The Kurds are not our enemies
Wilf Day
Babbler # 3276

posted 05 September 2005 01:31 PM      Profile for Wilf Day     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
A letter to Europeans by Brendan O'Leary, a citizen of Ireland:

some of Europe’s intellectuals talk without qualification, or with approval, of an Iraqi “nationalist resistance” to the American Empire . . This prism, Europe’s “conventional wisdom”, distorts constructive thinking about the constitutional reconstruction of Iraq.

To say this is not to offer any apologia for the mistakes – and indeed any crimes – of the Bush administration. But, it may enable a hearing for three obvious considerations required for realistic as well as forward-looking appraisal. First, the enemy of one’s enemy - assuming George Bush’s administration is the enemy of liberal intellectuals - is not necessarily one’s friend. Second, the pivotal friends of democratization in Iraq are among people who rarely call themselves “Iraqis”, namely Kurds, and Shi‘a Arabs . . .

The Kurds are neither Arabs nor Iraqis. They speak Kurdish; have a different culture, look different, do not fly Iraq’s flag, and insist that Iraq should not be defined as part of the Arab nation.

Kurds are willing, with extreme caution, to build a democratic, pluralist Iraqi federation. They have no love for the American prompted arranged marriage on offer after 2003. Kurdistan’s citizens prefer an immediate divorce. In January 2005, in a parallel private referendum held at the same time as the elections to Iraq’s constitutional convention, 98 per cent of two million voters endorsed an independent Kurdistan. “We deserve independence”, says President Masoud Barzani of Kurdistan, precisely because of what Kurds have suffered under successive Baghdad regimes, e.g. the destruction of 4,000 villages, forced displacement of hundreds of thousands, and the mass killing of up to 180,000 of their people under Saddam.

But, Kurdistan’s leaders, and their people, may compromise their maximal preferences if their minimal interests are met.

Insurgent Sunni Arabs are at war with Shi‘a Arabs and in their dreams would re-conquer Kurdistan. The fallacy that they constitute an “Iraqi” nationalist resistance should be laid to rest: it is an illusion beloved by both Sunni Arabs and critics of America’s decision to depose Saddam.

The non-insurgent Sunni Arabs are hopelessly divided. A minority are liberals, democrats, human rights activists, excellent people, but most have their heads cowed, for good reasons.

Sunni Arabs constitute a majority in four of Iraq’s governorates, eighteen of which were established under Saddam. To vote down the constitution Sunni Arabs need to mobilize two thirds of the voters to vote “No” in three of these governorates. They can deliver such an outcome in Anbar and Salahaddin, but, in my view, are most unlikely to be able to do so in Nineva (where there is a significant Kurdish population as well as Christian minorities), or in Diyala, where there are significant numbers of Shi‘a Arabs and Kurds. In these two provinces, provided they are supported, the relevant minorities can go to the polls to stop a jihadist victory or a B‘athist restoration (whichever they fear most). Provided that a constitutional draft largely composed by the Kurdistan and United Iraqi alliances protects the core interests of Sunni Arabs it is a fair bet that some Sunni Arabs will not vote against the constitution.

In short: there is a demographic, democratic, reasonable and realist constitutional path to the renewal of Iraq, in principle, as a democratic and pluralist federation.

The Bush administration has wanted a centralized (rather than federal and pluralist) Iraq for only two reasons that make any sense, at least to me. First, to have an Iraq that is a counterweight to Iran. (It had hoped it would also be secular). That cause is lost; Iran and Shi‘a Arab Iraq, at least, will be at peace. . . Second, the Bush administration has wanted to appease Turkey’s fears of an independent Kurdistan. But, the best way to discourage an independent Kurdistan is to promote an Iraq that Kurdistan accepts, namely, a democratic, pluralist and federal Iraq that meets Kurdistan’s “red lines”.

From: Port Hope, Ontario | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 478

posted 05 September 2005 02:14 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Peter W. Galbraith, "Iraq: Bush's Islamic Republic," New York Review of Books 52, no. 13 (11 Aug. 2005).

Galbraith comes to fairly similar conclusions about the two ways in which the Bush administration has outsmarted itself, although I would say that he is less sanguine about a united Iraq unless they move to a looser confederal structure fast.

As you can see from his title, he is definitely taunting Bush for having served Iraq up to Iran on a platter.

[ 05 September 2005: Message edited by: skdadl ]

From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 4790

posted 05 September 2005 03:12 PM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
While I agree that there is a really clear dilineation between the Kurdish population and the Arab population, I am not so convinced there is an insurmountable seperation between Shia and Sunni Arabs.

The powerful Shia radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr suggested in a sermon on Friday that sectarian civil war had already started. He said: "We condemn the view that the [US] occupation's existence is beneficial for the Iraqi people because if it ended, there would be sectarian war - as if sectarian war had not already begun."

But Mr al-Sadr also praised the largely Sunni insurgents as "the noble resistance" and said Iraq was ruled by a colonial regime.

The Independent

That situation seems a little more muddy, and I am sure there is substantial Shia Arab resistance to having a Persian overlord.

I have often felt that our pundits here have played up much of the simple sociology that was found convenient for the US occupation agenda at the expense of subtler views.

From: Out from under the bridge and out for a stroll | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 4790

posted 05 September 2005 03:13 PM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
There have been numerous reports of clahses between Bani Sadr's militia and the Iranian backed Badr Brigade. And A Sadr's managed to get 100,000 Shia on the streets to protest against the "federalist" conception of the constitution, which both articles above suggest benefit a Shia agenda -- some think removing all the power from Baghdad does not benefit an Shia-Arab agenda apparently.

Picking a good guy is difficult, no doubt.

[ 05 September 2005: Message edited by: Cueball ]

From: Out from under the bridge and out for a stroll | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged

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