Morning Report 8/14/05
How to Make a Kurdistan
Oh, yeah, and six more American soldiers died for the neocons over there.
Some sort of "constitution" for Iraq may emerge by tomorrow's deadline, but the big issues won't be resolved. And for sure, we're witnessing the birth of a squalling, screaming, and kicking Kurdistan.
Breech birth, C-section—whatever. Like it or not, the Bush regime is birthin' this baby. And Kurdistan's already got its own army, the crack peshmerga.
The cluster of 30 million Kurds, most of them spread over Iraq, Turkey, and Iran, is the largest group of stateless people in the Middle East. And they are pissed. Have been for a long time.
Yes, I know. The papers are full of the Gaza disengagement, which also kicks off on Monday. Yes, the Palestinians are stateless. And yes, the Jews were stateless until Great Britain carved out a spot for them from Palestine.
The Turks got a nation. The Armenians got a nation. The Kurds haven't. But they think they do have one. Read the Kurdish press—there's even a Kurdistan Bloggers Union—and you'll find that a vast area of eastern Turkey is actually "North Kurdistan."
In western Iran, there really is a province called "Kurdistan." Wonderful, except that there's full-on rioting going on there right now, with 100,000 Iranian troops trying to keep the lid on after prominent Kurdish nationalist Shivan Qaderi was shot by cops and then dragged by a Jeep through the streets while he was still alive.
As Nazila Fathi points out in this morning's New York Times, these are the largest protests in Iran since the 1979 revolution.
Meanwhile, northern Iraq is "South Kurdistan." And just south of "South Kurdistan" is Kirkuk, a city of 800,000 that we'll be exiting before we leave any other part of Iraq.
The hapless idiots of the Bush regime did little planning for the aftermath of their unjustified invasion of Iraq, as we know from the Downing Street Memo and other documents and sources.
Now we're trying like hell to get out of Iraq. We went there in large part for the oil. We're not going to get it. I would imagine that the neocons saw themselves kicking back in Kirkuk, building an oil pipeline to Israel. Not going to happen.
The Kurds are also clamoring for Kirkuk, which sits on 6 percent of the world's oil. And the Kurds live there. Al Jazeera reported Saturday that the Iraqi pols trying to come up with a document of some sort without dying of heat stroke or car bombings hammered out a compromise regarding Kirkuk:
- Crucial consensus was also reached on the future of the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk, which sits atop 40% of the country's oilfields, or 6% of total world reserves, a source close to the process said.
Another panelist said an agreed deadline for "normalisation of Kirkuk" had been laid out in the draft constitution—the first time such a deadline has been officially agreed.
During the 1980s, former Iraq president Saddam Hussein tried to consolidate his control over Kirkuk's oil by expelling thousands of Kurds from the region, replacing them with mainly Shia Arabs from the country's south.
Kurds are demanding this process be reversed before holding a referendum on the future status of a city they want included within the borders of a federally autonomous Kurdish zone.
Kirkuk, an ancient place, is split among Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen. Samah Samad, one of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting's intrepid young crew, ably pointed the infighting among the factions there in a May 24 story. Here's a passage that may explain some of the background to whatever document emerges Monday from the pols in Baghdad:
- The Kurds' political opponents believe their real agenda is oil. Although the Iraqi oil industry is controlled centrally in Baghdad, anyone who holds political power in Kirkuk could exercise significant leverage.
Arab and Turkoman politicians go further than that, voicing suspicions that the Kurds' ultimate goal is not just to run the local council, but to get Kirkuk incorporated into an expanded, federal Kurdistan as part of the new constitutional arrangements for Iraq. Kurdistan, consisting of three governorates which gained de facto autonomy from Saddam's rule and is now governed through its own regional assembly, does not include Kirkuk—a city which many Kurds think would make a natural capital city.
"Kirkuk is a major source of oil and that's why it's a centre of disputes," said Ali Mahdi, a provincial council member who is deputy head of the Turkoman Front party. "It's also why the Kurdish leadership is trying in every way to get control over Kirkuk under the pretext of federalism."
Mohammed Khalil, an Arab member of the council, agrees, saying, "Kirkuk is a tree full of fruit, and it's having stones thrown at it. If the Kurds get Kirkuk and its oil, I think there will be civil war."
And if there is civil war, it will be about freedom, not just oil.
- Khalil believes Kurdish politicians are only pressing for a federal system for Iraq as a precursor to a fully independent state of Kurdistan which would incorporate Kirkuk and its oil.
But Kurdish figures in the city disagree. According to Sherzad Adil Khorshid, a Kurdish member of the council, his community's claims to Kirkuk have nothing to do with oil. Instead, he said, "It is a matter of history."
The allegations about oil are "excuses and invalid accusations," he said. "They have come up with these comments to stop the Kurds winning their full rights."