2004 June 20 Sunday
Will The Kurds Try To Secede From Iraq?

The Kurds are developing distrust of America and are afraid the Bush Administration will betray them.

IRBIL, Iraq - (KRT) - In the days since the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution governing the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty that has no overt mention of Kurdish concerns, something has been brewing in the streets here that was unheard of just a few weeks ago: Anti-American sentiment.

If I was in their position I wouldn't trust the United States either. The Bush Administration can't be counted on to insist on Kurdish autonomy.

The Kurds fear being forced to live under a Shia Arab religious government.

Sitting under a huge portrait of Mulla Mustapha, Barzani spoke intensely: "In the past, the Sunni Arab minority ruled Iraq. Now religious groups could take power and dictate. If every now and then a fatwa (a religious decree) would be issued by Sistani or someone else, what would be the guarantee that Kurds can live?

"The Americans won't stay forever, and what then?"

The Kurds are right to fear eventual rule by the Arabs in part because the Kurds are substantially more liberal than the Arabs.

The Kurdish troops in the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps are ready to abandon it to fight against the Arabs if the Kurdish region is not allowed to maintain its autonomy.

The local troops have earned high marks for their professionalism; many of them, like the 24-year-old Nasser, got years of military training in the fight against Saddam Hussein with the peshmerga guerrillas of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. That's where Nasser's loyalty remains, he readily admits. "I'm still a peshmerga," he says, laughing. "I only wear this uniform because our party's leadership told us we have to join the ICDC." How long they'll tell him to stay is an open question. "If our leaders decide to pull out of the government," he says, "we will leave with them. It will be easy for us to go to the mountains and fight the new government."

Kurds are being threatened by Arabs in Fallujah and other Arab cities because the Arabs see them as disloyal and allied with the American forces. The Kurds are fleeing Arab regions to return to the Kurdish north to take back land they'd previously been forced off of by Saddam Hussein's regime. But this return is displacing Arabs. So migrations of Arabs and Kurds within Iraq are making the majority Arab and Kurd zones more purely Arab and Kurd. There may be 100,000 Arabs living in refugee camps as a result of being forced off of lands and out of houses in Kurdish region of Iraq. (same article here)

The Kurdish migration appears to be causing widespread misery, with Arab settlers complaining of forcible expulsions and even murders at the hands of Kurdish returnees. Many of the Kurdish refugees themselves are gathered in crowded and filthy refugee camps.

U.S. officials say that as many as 100,000 Arabs have fled their homes in north-central Iraq and are now scattered in squalid camps across the center of the country.

The Kurds will continue to stream north while the Arabs move in the opposite direction. This will make the regions of Iraq have even less in common. The Kurds may avoid outright secession out of fear of US military forces. But the US really should avoid allowing events to unfold in ways that will push the Kurds to the point where they feel alienated from the United States. My guess is that the Bush Administration will try so hard to cater to the Shia Arabs that the Kurds will end up feeling pretty well shafted though.

If the US would guarantee Kurdish autonomy then the Kurds would love to see the US set up permanent bases to help safeguard the Kurdish region.

The Kurds are not in the worst position of all the factions in Iraq.The Assyrian Christians face an even worse future than the Kurds may face.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 June 20 03:49 AM  MidEast Iraq Partition

noone said at June 20, 2004 7:06 AM:

They're wise not to trust us.Like it or not,we have a long post-WW2 history of abadoning our allies and it wouldn't be the first time we've screwed over the Kurds.

Matra said at June 20, 2004 9:28 AM:

Srdja Trifkovic wrote an excellent article on this topic last week that you might find interesting:



razib said at June 21, 2004 12:09 AM:

the Kurds are substantially more liberal than the Arabs

like saying paler than the ace of spades? :) but i get what you're saying....

david said at June 21, 2004 11:26 AM:

It's another in a string of really stupid policy moves.

Let's anger the only group of people in the region who sort of like us (Kurds) in order to appease a group of people who don't (shia Arabs and Turks).

Partition was miserable for a few years with India and Pakistan. Now at least only Pakistan is a backwards fundie-nutcase country, but India is doing all right. Maybe we should try the same with Iraq, and let the Arab section go nutty and let the Kurds run a much less nutty section.

And who the **** cares what the Turks say? Fat lot of help they were. And let's face it, we only bought them off to have a friend on the border of the old USSR, just like they bought Cuba off. The USSR is no more, so what's the point in continuing to bribe them? Especially since the bribery doesn't even work! And Kurdistan would be just as strategically located.


Matra said at June 21, 2004 1:19 PM:

"The USSR is no more, so what's the point in continuing to bribe them?"

Maybe it has something to do with Turkey being one of the few Muslim countries in the region to have relatively good relations with Israel.

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