Monday, August 21, 2006

The Kurds go their own way

Flag of Kurdistan

Those of you who are regular members of Joshua's Army know that I have long been in favor of an independent Kurdistan...and had I been calling the shots they would already have it, and the US would have a firm, trustworthy ally. It simply astounds me that our policy in Iraq has been so at odds with our actual goals.

We talk about `democracy in the Middle East' but here is a country that is actually living it, and we persist in attempting to shackle them to a failed state.

The Kurds appear to have their own ideas about that.

Here, reknowned journalist Michael Totten takes a journey to Kurdistan and reports:

"Two hours into my first tour of Erbil, my guide for the day taught me to feel lucky. “If we were doing this in Baghdad, we would be dead by now,” he said.

Our driver nodded vigorously.

“It’s that dangerous?” I asked.

“With your face,” my guide replied, “and with our Kurdish license plates on the car, we could not last two hours.”

So goes the capital of Iraq. But I was touring the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, where the war is already over.

There are no insurgents in Kurdistan. Nor are there any kidnappings. A hard internal border between the Kurds’ territory and the Arab-dominated center and south has been in place since the Kurdish uprising at the end of the 1991 Gulf War. Cars on the road heading north are stopped at a series of checkpoints. Questions are asked. ID cards are checked. Vehicles are searched and sometimes taken apart on the side of the road. Smugglers, insurgents, and terrorists who attempt to sneak into Kurdistan by crossing Iraq’s wilderness areas are ambushed by border patrols.

The second line of defense is the Kurds themselves. Out of desperate necessity, they have forged one of the most vigilant anti-terrorist communities in the world. Anyone who doesn’t speak Kurdish as their native language—and Iraq’s troublemakers overwhelmingly fall into this category—stands out among the general population. There is no friendly sea of the people, to borrow Mao’s formulation, that insurgents can freely swim in. Al Qaeda members who do manage to infiltrate the area are hunted down like rats. This conservative Muslim society does a better job rooting out and keeping out Islamist killers than the U.S. military can manage in the kinda sorta halfway “safe” Green Zone in Baghdad."

"{..}Only 200 U.S. troops are stationed in Iraq’s Kurdistan region. Even those are mere tokens. The Kurdish armed forces, the Peshmerga (“those who face death”), are in charge of security. They do a remarkable job. Since Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime was toppled, only a handful of violent attacks have taken place in their part of the country....Meanwhile, the rest of the Kurds’ country—if we can still think of Iraq as their country—is the most terrorized place in the world."

"Arab Iraqis who want to “keep” Kurdistan should thank the heavens for Talabani, Iraq’s president. He belongs to the 1.3 percent of Iraqi Kurds who at least say they want to remain tied to Baghdad. Meanwhile, Masoud Barzani, president of Kurdistan and chief of the conservative Kurdistan Democratic Party, is playing bad cop. While Talabani is in Baghdad trying to forge a federal Iraq with official Kurdish autonomy, Barzani broods in his mountain palace and openly threatens secession. “Self-determination is the natural right of our people,” he said early last year. “When the right time comes, it will become a reality.”

It’s hard to overstate just how long and how badly the Kurds have wanted out. Barzani’s father, the guerilla leader Moula Mustafa, once told Jim Hoagland of The Washington Post, “We can become your 51st state and provide you with oil.” That was back in 1973."

Read it all:
Reason: The Kurds Go Their Own Way by Michael J. Totten

1 comment:

linearthinker said...

Thanks. I needed some good news.
It seemed to me in '03 that a triple partioning of Iraq was sensible, but what do I know?