Iraq vs. Kurdistan vs. Turkey

I may be in a small minority, but I am neither a hawk nor a dove. Though I have concerns about the upcoming war in Iraq, and the Bush Administration's cavalier attitude to legitimate dissent and its contempt for the multilateral process, a part of me has come to the conclusion that war in Iraq is inevitable. It may even be necessary.

The situation in Iraq is just not stable. Saddam Hussein is too entrenched a dictator to be toppled from within. His ambitions are known to us, as is his ruthlessness, and that stuff just isn't going to go away. It even makes sense to me that the United States should be responsible for Saddam's removal, since it was previous American administrations which put him in power and made him the threat that he is in the first place. Now if only other Western powers would admit their complicity and join in.

I have no doubt that Iraq's military can be crushed. The war, while bloody, will probably be short, and regime change will occur. That doesn't worry me too much. What worries me far more is that the Bush Administration might screw up the peace.

Since writing this post voicing my questions about the Bush Administration's policy to Kurdistan, a number of developments have occurred which have answered some of my questions, but have also increased my disquiet.

Does the Bush Administration support an independent Kurdistan? The answer would appear to be no. There are no plans for it in any of the post-war Iraq scenarios I've heard discussed. Some discussion has been given towards making Iraq a federated state, with strong regional autonomy given to the Kurds, but Iraq's integrity is to be maintained. That's a fair and understandible answer, if that's as far as it goes. However, other indications are that the Bush Administration's refusal to grant the Kurds more independence might be a condition of receiving support for the war from Turkey, which has always opposed an independent Kurdistan, and for whom the Kurds are an everpresent problem. Other statements, suggesting that Turkey might be invited to occupy Northern Iraq after the fall of Saddam strike me as really cynical and bad ideas. Putting the control of Kurdish Iraq in the hands of a country that's worked so hard to thwart Kurdish independence is a blatant and tasteless rebuke of Kurdish aspirations. It's like the North asking Mexico to occupy Texas after the Civil War.

Other small statements and little details suggest that the Bush Administration is using the Iraqi people (especially the Kurds) as political leverage to gain support for an invasion of Iraq, but is not intending to pay them back for it. Indeed, there are talks that Iraq will have to, essentially, pay reparations once the invasion is complete (where have I heard that before?) The Al Queda cell fighting the Iraqi Kurds is used as a major link between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, despite the fact that Turkey may be supporting this cell too. The Kurds and the Shiites also remember how, following the Gulf War, they were encouraged to rise up against Saddam, but received no military support from the West when Saddam moved to crush their rebellion.

These details are just that, details. They don't hint at any policy of disdain by the Bush Administration against the Kurdish interests. However, to some Kurds, these details have been enough to weaken their support for a U.S. invasion, or raise the alarming possibility of a war between obstensible U.S. allies Kurdistan and Turkey. And when the same people on whose behalf we've been morally justifying the war express their doubts, we've lost our moral justification for war.

The Bush Administration could cast aside these doubts and counteract these doubts if they would just put together a coherent plan for Iraq following the fall of Saddam Hussein. If they could just show that they intended to build a federated democracy, where Kurdish and Southern Shiite minorities have a say in their own affairs, they could go a long way to receiving the full support of Saddam Hussein's strongest opponents within Iraq. Once they have that, it would be easier to gain support throughout the world for the invasion.

An Iraq that's free and a democratic beacon to other nations in the Middle East is something that would be a great benefit to the world. An Iraq that's nothing more than a client state, with Saddam-lite at the helm, does nothing to improve regional stability, or combat the natural cynicism surrounding this ill-thought-out war.

In fact, we're back to 1980, when Saddam Hussein was the leader of our little client state of Iraq.

Well, I said that, in two to three months, we would all know where Kurdistan was on a map. I'll revisit this issue on April 28. If things go as they appear to be going, we should know more by then.

Some rumours have it that the bombs will start falling on March 15. Hasn't anybody thought of the irony of starting such a war on the Ides of March?

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