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Iraqi Expat

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Kurds and Iraq today

Until recently, I was a bit naive regarding the issue of Kurds. I love the Kurds, I have many Kurdish friends and I have Kurdish ancestors. But most of the Kurds I know are those lived in Arab areas (e.g. Baghdad); and therefore, they are well integrated and they think slightly differently from the rest of the Kurds. That's why I was a bit naive about certain things.

To look at the Kurds and be fair to them, you have to acknowledge their history. They inhabited the area which is now part of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Armenia about 3000 - 4000 years ago. So to think that they could just forget their history and become Iraqis in a day is a bit naive. Having said that, they are Iraqis, but they were Kurds before they became Iraqis; like we are Arabs before we were Iraqis. The only difference is that they were oppressed throughout history by many nations including Arabs; of course they have their own culture, language, etc.

When the enemy was Saddam, there was a common goal that united all those who were against him; Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, etc. And today, as we stand facing one of the toughest test in implementing democracy in Iraq, we stand not as united as we should've been. Ethnicity dictated the elections and ethnicity is dictating the future. Of course it is understandable and expected after all the suffering caused by Saddam's regime. But things will change when real democracy prevails and people are more educated.

As an Iraqi, what would one wants from this process? In general, we want freedom and democracy where there is security, justice and protection of minority rights; this plus many other reforms including education will lead to a prosperous Iraq.

As a Kurd, what would one wants from this process? Wait a second, you might say; the Kurds are Iraqis, which means they would want the same things! Well, yes but their ethnicity and their history make them want more!

The Kurdish authority made an error of judgement when they conducted a poll to find out whether the Kurds preferred to be part of Iraq or have their independence. Having been oppressed for so many years, of course most of them would choose independence; but when there is no chance of that happening, why conduct a poll that serves no purpose? I blame the Kurdish authorities for conducting the poll in the first place.

There is a much larger population of Kurds in Iran and Turkey than in Iraq, which means that they [Iran and Turkey], especially Turkey, will not allow the Iraqi Kurds to have their independence, at least not now; even if Iraq granted them their independence. Turkey has voiced its concerns regarding this issue many times and the US assured Turkey that this will not happen.
During the flight to Ankara from Poland, Ms Rice told reporters: "I'm here really in part to say to the Turks that we are fully committed, fully committed, to a unified Iraq."
However, I doubt that there are many Iraqis who would object to the Kurds having autonomy; its only fair and right that they have it after they managed themselves for 14 years. Even Turkey wouldn't object to that:
Turkey has officially accepted the establishment of a federal structure in Iraq. Officials including Turkey's Special Envoy to Iraq, the General Staff, National Intelligence Branch and representatives Foreign Affairs Ministry have accepted the federalism article, the most important article in the Iraqi Temporary Administrative Law that until today had not officially been accepted. An official statement released today says: "We respect the decisions of the Iraqis. We will not object if the majority of Iraqis demand federalism."
When I heard that Jalal Talabani is nominated to be the president of Iraq, I thought; yes, let him be, let them have it and let them feel part of the new Iraq. Let them know that the new Iraq excludes no one from any posts, its an Iraq that we should all be proud of. They have suffered and they came second in the election; so it is just fair that they get one of the main posts in the new government. It is a good thing, because now they will feel more Iraqis than ever; Jalal Talabani said:
Reassuring Turkey about the territorial integrity of Iraq, Talabani said his Iraqi identity would appear after he became president. "Iraq's territorial integrity will be more in favor of the Kurds. The Kurds can play a more active role in an integrated Iraq. There are some tendencies for Independent Kurdistan, but I believe that I will overcome these as our influence increases. I was a Kurdish Iraqi, now I will be an Iraqi Kurd," Talabani explained.
Abraham Lincoln once said:
"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."
The Kurdish leaders are being tested today after they gained more power than their share, because of lack of participation from many due to various reasons. They are being tested and unfortunately they forgot that together we are shaping a country which is fair to all, which they are part of and that they shouldn't be afraid of the future. They forgot that today they have 25% of the votes, but tomorrow they will have less (probably less than 20%). I believe that if you are reasonable and fair when you are powerful, you will be treated within reason and with fairness when you are weak (not applicable in tyranny, of course).

So far in what I mentioned above, the Kurdish leaders have only made one error, which is the unnecessary poll for independency. But during negotiations, other misjudgements took place!

Kurdish leaders want the Kurdish paramilitary, known as the Peshmerga, to be controlled by the Kurdish authority and paid for by the Iraqi government! And for the Iraqi Army to enter the Kurdish autonomous area, they would require a permit from the Kurdish Parliament!

In simple terms, in federalism the central government would be in charge of defence, external affairs and federal budget! So, if the Peshmerga to be controlled by the Kurdish authorities how can the central government be in charge of defence? How does that work? Is there a Florida Army? No, there is an American Army. Is there a Scottish Army? No, there is a British Army.

I understand that they want to protect themselves, but why not have the Peshmerga as part of the Iraq Army, paid for by the Iraqi government and stationed in the Kurdish autonomous areas? Wouldn't that be more logical?

Kirkuk is a critical issue for two reasons: One, for its multi-ethnic population mostly Kurds and Turkmen; and Turkey want to ensure the safety and rights of the Turkmen living in Kirkuk. Two, because its oil rich. Therefore, I will leave this issue for now and I hope they do the same! However, I do have one question which I don't have an answer for, why the US/UN didn't give Kirkuk to the Kurds in 1992?

I love the Kurds and I feel like their leaders are damaging the relationship between Arabs and Kurds; and I am afraid of the consequences. Their leaders are trying to get as much as they can while they have power! But, there are more important issues to deal with at this point. You are negotiating and you have the right to make demands, but be reasonable and remember that the tyrant is gone; and those critical issues that have a long lasting impact, such as Kirkuk, shouldn't be dealt with in such a haste.


Blogger dcat said...


You are right. There are more imoportant issues. Leaders seem afraid of the unknown. I think that the right demands will be met after seeing the whole picture.

March 15, 2005 5:45 pm  
Anonymous Annie said...

Your question as to why the US/UN didn't give Kirkuk to the Kurds in 1992, puzzles me. My question would be: Was it theirs to give?

Also you asked (facetiously) about the Florida army. In a sense under a republic such as ours, generally speaking, the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, is the US Military responsible for national defense. But each state within that republic does have it's own little army, so to speak. When problems arise within states the National Guard are usually the ones to handle it. For example when riots broke out in LA in California, they called in the California National Guard, when the hurricanes hit, the Florida National Guard helped out, etc. Perhaps the Kurds need reassured that they will be able to provide their own defense to some extent, to assure them that another Saddam could not control them if that were ever to be the case. Perhaps they need their own version of a "national guard"?

March 15, 2005 7:48 pm  
Blogger Brian H said...

Arguing from analogy to other jurisdictions is probably not very useful here; why not use the EU as an model instead of the US, for example? Or the Warsaw Pact? In any case, the real issue is trust; the Kurds don't trust the ROI not to suppress and exploit them, and the ROI doesn't trust the Kurds not to cause trouble and stage an armed independence revolt. Maybe the best solution is to have the Kurds annex the ROI; they run their own area pretty well! ;-)

As to the 1992 situation, the US & UK were in military control of the area, and could indeed have put Kirkuk "behind the line". But I think they were afraid of facing the dilemma that now has occurred: how do you deal fairly with the evicted Kurds and the new residents? The fact that it is the north's an oil center makes it even touchier, of course.

Maybe the solution is to build a new and somewhat better house in or on the edges of the city for each one which was taken over, and offer each party a choice of which to take, with a decision-making mechanism in case of identical choices. Maybe each party to put up a sum to induce the other to take the other choice, with the largest bid winning.

Jurisdiction is of course another whole kettle of fish, and I think pure power politics and trade-offs are going to have to rule there.

March 15, 2005 11:45 pm  
Blogger Ahmad said...


The EU model is not a federal model nor the Warsaw Pact! EU model is a group of countries setting a common market and a common set of standards for economy, education, etc. And the Warsaw Pact was setup as a military alliance between a group of countries to form a force against the NATO.

So basically both models are based on few independent countries setting common goals and objectives. Which means, that the Kurds have to be an independent country! And believe me that I do not have a problem with that, but I think Turkey does!

I can totally understand why they want to keep the Peshmerga, but there needs to be a logical and sensible solution to all this.

Maybe the solution is as Annie said, is to keep it as their National Guard rather than an army!

As for Kirkuk, most of the new resident, I believe, have left or been evicted! They are the Arab Baathists that Saddam sent to Arabize Kirkuk; so I don't think this is the problem. The problem is that there are many Turkmen, few Arabs and other ethnic minorities who have been there for a long time!

March 16, 2005 1:04 am  
Anonymous Seguin said...

Here is the link for the United States National Guard. http://www.arng.army.mil/About_Us/

March 16, 2005 11:05 pm  
Blogger Ahmad said...

Thank you Sequin,
This sounds like a good solution! I hope they reach an agreement to that effect.

March 16, 2005 11:16 pm  
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August 03, 2011 11:46 pm  
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