Monday, January 31, 2005

An independent Kurdistan?

This is interesting:
OF all the remarkable things that happened at the Iraqi polls on Sunday, perhaps the most striking was pulled off by the Kurdish independence movement. With almost no advance notice, hundreds of Kurds erected tents at official polling places in Iraq's Kurdish areas and asked those emerging from the ballot booths to take part in an informal referendum on whether Kurdistan should be independent or part of Iraq. From what I saw, almost everyone stopped to vote in the referendum, and the tally was running 11 to 1 in favor of independence.
Iraq's new Assembly will face the task of preparing a constitution for a country where a sizable part of the population almost unanimously does not want to be part of the whole. The representatives of the Kurdish areas will most likely be the second-largest bloc in the Parliament. They will not press for independence any time soon, but they will be mindful of the referendum vote...The Kurdish region today functions as if it were an independent state. The Kurdistan Regional Government carries out virtually all government functions, and Baghdad law applies only to the extent the Kurdish Parliament chooses to apply it. Kurdistan is responsible for its own security (which is the main reason it has been free of the violence wracking the rest of Iraq) and maintains its own armed forces.

For the people of Kurdistan, the issue is not simply a matter of keeping what they have. What drives the move for independence is not just the love of Kurdistan but also a widespread antipathy toward Iraq.
America doesn't appear to be in favour of an independent Kurdistan, but will they be able to apply sufficient pressure on the Kurds? Turkey and Iran fear that their own sizable Kurdish minorities might wish to secede and join a new Kurdish state.

Also from the same editorial
The United States would do well to learn the lessons of the former Yugoslavia, where policymakers denied the reality of breakup until it was too late to contain the accompanying violence. Just four days before Yugoslavia's wars began in June 1991, the American Secretary of State, James Baker, was in Belgrade focused on the impossible task of stopping Slovenian and Croatian secession when he should have been trying to prevent the shooting.
Read the whole thing; the author (Peter Galbraith), as a former U.S. ambassador to Croatia, probably knows what he's talking about.

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