Good News from Kurdistan

Kurds in Iraqi army proclaim loyalty to militia,” by Tom Lasseter, Knight Ridder Newspapers, 27 December 2005, (from America Blog and Democratic Underground).

Very happy news from Kurdistan, an embryo of democracy in the Middle East:

Kurdish leaders have inserted more than 10,000 of their militia members into Iraqi army divisions in northern Iraq to lay the groundwork to swarm south, seize the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and possibly half of Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city, and secure the borders of an independent Kurdistan.

This is fantastic news.

Iraq is an artificial state that should break apart. , that of the Middle East caused by Bush’s gift of elections to Iraq, was a wonderful reward for the Iraq War. The trifurcation of Iraq is another.

Dr. Barnett has written a lot about a “,” the reconstruction force that should take conquered land and turn them (eventually) into peaceful capitalist democracies. It can barely work as envisioned in the best of cases, and spending vital energy trying to keep imaginary states created by the British and French together is just wasteful. Next time we invade a country like Iraq, rationalization of borders should be assumed from the beginning.

Besides waisting time and effort, trying to keep fake countries together hurts in another way: it can make progress go backwards. Before the Iraq War the Kurds already had a functional democracy. If we are going to pretend that they should be ruled by Ba’ath Revivalists, the Iraq War would have sacrificed a democracy (Iraqi Kurdistan) on the altar of Affirmative Action for Murderers (trying to buy off Arab Sunnis by pretending Arab Sunni political parties are different from Arab Sunni terrorists). Fortunately, the Kurds have had enough.

More on the Kurdish soldiers, preparing to create their New Kurdish Republic

The soldiers said that while they wore Iraqi army uniforms they still considered themselves members of the Peshmerga – the Kurdish militia – and were awaiting orders from Kurdish leaders to break ranks. Many said they wouldn’t hesitate to kill their Iraqi army comrades, especially Arabs, if a fight for an independent Kurdistan erupted.

“It doesn’t matter if we have to fight the Arabs in our own battalion,” said Gabriel Mohammed, a Kurdish soldier in the Iraqi army who was escorting a Knight Ridder reporter through Kirkuk. “Kirkuk will be ours.”

The Kurds have readied their troops not only because they’ve long yearned to establish an independent state but also because their leaders expect Iraq to disintegrate, senior leaders in the Peshmerga – literally, “those who face death” – told Knight Ridder. The Kurds are mostly secular Sunni Muslims, and are ethnically distinct from Arabs.

Happily, the majority Shia are also planning for the dismemberment of Iraq:

Their strategy mirrors that of Shiite Muslim parties in southern Iraq, which have stocked Iraqi army and police units with members of their own militias and have maintained a separate militia presence throughout Iraq’s central and southern provinces. The militias now are illegal under Iraqi law but operate openly in many areas. Peshmerga leaders said in interviews that they expected the Shiites to create a semi-autonomous and then independent state in the south as they would do in the north.

As I wrote a year ago

A trifurcated Iraqi state would be a success. It would represent a victory for local democracy. It would improve connectivity. And it would prove a valuable warning for future regimes.

Iraq was not democratically created. There were no founding fathers or great constitutional convention after the end of the Great War. It was merely one of four new states (along with Lebanon, Syria, Transjordan, and Iraq) carved out by two victors. Of the original four, one has already disintegrated (Transjordan into Jordan and Israel, which will soon splinter into Israel and Palestine) and another (Lebanon) has lost territorial integrity. Allowing local sovereigns that represent the will of actual peoples would be a step up, if they wish it so.

Iraq has not been connected. Before Saddam Iraq was poor, illiterate, and backwards, and after a brief rebirth it sank almost all the way back again. Even though they were the original Westernizers, it appears that a significant fraction of Iraq’s Sunnis are hostile to globalization and connectivity. No people can be pulled ahead unwillingly. Even if modern-term strategy requires us to abandon the Sunni Triangle, hooking Kurdistan and Shia Iraq to the rest of the world, that is a tremendous victory. A free, democratic, and peaceful Kurdistan shows a future worth creating to both Turks and Turkish Kurds. And a non-authoritarian Shia Iraq is a bright light for Shia Iran. The Sunnis represent only 20% of Iraq. 80% victory is not 100% victory, but it is still victory.

Free Sumer! Free Kurdistan! Free East Arabia, for that matter!

Don’t spill Coalition blood for the Iraqi Sunni Arabs.

6 thoughts on “Good News from Kurdistan”

  1. While in general I agree with your thoughts about Kurdistan, I worry that the path toward a free Kurdistan will be soaked with blood — Kurdish and Arabic blood, possibly culminating in genocide — and, even more, I'm beginning to worry about Turkey's response to an independent Kurdistan…

    Of course, whatever bloody path leads to a free, strong, and independent democratic Kurdistan will be laid at GWB's feet even while he insists that a democratic Kurdistan was his plan all along: y'know, we really went to Iraq to create democracies in the Middle East, so the ultimate trifurcation will count as a success if one corner or perhaps two corners of Iraq become a free democracy (except not for the benefit of all the dead Iraqis who will not experience free Kurdistan, free Shiastan, free Sunnistan, etc….)

    Well, okay: no “Shiastan.” I mean, there's already Iran waiting to annex southern Iraq, and I'm sure that Ahmedinejad has probably taken the news of an independent Kurdistan as a signal to crack down on the Kurds which make up 7% of Iran's demographics. In fact, if the religious Shiites of Iraq are closely aligned with Iran, then I could see an eventual invasion of northern Iraq by southern Iraq with help from both Iran and Turkey. Or maybe I'm just dreaming.

  2. Curtis,

    Thank you for your comments, both here and on your blog [1]. I'll respond in both places, as appropriate.

    There are strong parrellels between Iraq and South Africa. Both have traditionally been ruled by a Westernized minority with long, occasionally hostile, ties to the British (the Afrikaaners, the Sunni Arabs). Both saw their birth rates collapse as they enjoyed modern lifestyles, while the majoriy's population skyrocketed. Both experienced one party rule (the Nationalist Party, the Ba'ath Party). Both gained democracy because of the efforts of the Anglosphere.

    But the while the Nationalists relinquished power peacefully, and left behind the richest country in Africa, the Ba'ath's apartheid ended violently, and left behind a shattered culture.

    As I have written, we are seeing the bloody end of apartheid. [2]

    When the South African majority began passing laws that were untolerable to the minority, the Afrikaaners did not fight back. They took what they could and left. Since democratization the Afrikaan share of the population has shrunk from roughly 15% to roughly 10%.

    Those Iraqi Sunni Arabs who know better realize that the permanent loss of power in Iraq and a similar demograph collapse is their best case scenario. Those that believe Saddam's old lie that they were a majority merely believe that every election has been rigged, and if they can only get a fair election they will regain power.

    I wonder how many who feel the Sunni Arab's pain also feel the Afrikaaner's pain?

    The “perhaps two corners” of Iraq, the Kurds and the Shia, make about 85% of Iraq's population. Roughly the same fraction of South Africa that is black.

    Both the Kurds and the Shia are natural allies of the Iranians. Iran is on very good terms with most domestic minorities. Like with Iraq a non-majority rules Iran (Persians make up about 49% of the population), but Iran has a much softer glove.

    More likely than a Persian attempt to annex Southern Iraq is an Iranian-Iraqi commont front against Saudi Arabia. [3] Good. The Saudis are monsters [4]

    Your macabre calculus, “all the dead Iraqis who will not experience free Kurdistan, free Shiastan, free Sunnistan, etc….,” fails to acknowledge the high ongoing death rate of Ba'athi rule.

    Turkey will be quite as long as she is on the path to Europe.


  3. “Both the Kurds and the Shia are natural allies of the Iranians.”

    This is interesting, and I have written in comments to the post on my blog the possibility that Iran knows the effect that a free and independent Kurdistan will have on Turkey. The “independent Kurdistan” movement recognizes four regions of “occupied” Kurdistan: the north, south, east, and west. With the ascension of a free Southern Kurdistan, calls for idependence of “Northern Kurdistan” in Turkey will escalate. Iran may not be so worried about “East Kurdistan” forming within its borders.

    The fact that Iran wishes for Iraq to serve as a node of influence in the region is not indicative of a U.S.-loving Ahmedinejad. I.e., we may have a common foe in the Sunnis, but that may not lead to a U.S.-Iran alliance. Yes, we could advocate such an alliance; but that seems to be wishful thinking, or an ideal that will not take hold for various reasons until much more chaos has occurred.

    My “macabre calculus” is fact. I suppose we could speak of the murder of a handful of people as being a glorious and divine act in the service of those who have survived the turmoil in Iraq — but I'd rather not. And, I'm not speaking only of “collateral damage”, am including all the deaths that may occur over the next decade. I don't imagine I would call the murder of my nephew or cousin or whatever a trifling detail when Evil Saddam murdered so many: There you are speaking of statistics and implying that mass murder, because it includes the deaths of so many, is worse than regular murder. When, in fact, if an individual murder is nothing much, then a hundred thousand of those individual murders can't be considered all that bad.

  4. There are comments about Northern Iraq (or Kurdistan) being an embryo of democracy in the Middle East. I find these opinions quite superficial. While I accept that the Iraq is an artificial state, I can confidently claim that there is no democracy in Northern Iraq. Do you think Barzani and Talabani are elected 100% officials? They are only the chiefs of the tribes and they never let anybody to seriously challenge them in the elections. You need to understand the structure of the tribes in the region. Do you think that people in the small villages of Northern Iraq go voting and select whoever they desire?

    Current administration in DC is trying to hide this fact and advertising Northern Iraq as a democracy. Northern Iraq is not different than the one man regime of Essad in Syria. There is practically no difference between Barzani, Essad or Suud dynasty. For now Barzani is a good guy because he cooperates. Follow the case of Austrian citizen and Kurdish writer who is in the prison in Northern Iraq. He started to ask questions about the finance of the Barzani and look what happened…

    One more thing Barzani clan makes money over smuggling through Turkish border. They depend on Turks 100% financially.

  5. Curtis,

    I agree a free Iraqi Kurdistan will put further pressure on the Turks to form a Turkish Kurdistan. Iran will be happy to just manage the situation, though, as it manages Baluchis, Azeris, and Armenians within her boders.

    I agree that Ahmeninejad doesn't love the US — and he doesn't have to. The same real logic that pushed China and America together pushes Iran and America together. That Iran also has natural ties to China, as does America, just knits the fabric tighter. Iran is the natural deputy for America in the gulf, and will be replaying that role in the future (hopefully sooner rather than later).

    Your macabre calculus is wrong because you count the loses of the Iraq War (the individual casualities which are its downstream effects) but not the net-gains (those who were not murdered by the Saddamite tyranny). If individual murder is anything, then a calculus should favor a result which minimizes it compared to the status quo.


    I'm not sure of your criticism. Are you saying that tribal societies are by definition incapable of democracy, or that the KDP-PUK run a two-party dictatorship by violent means?

  6. Dan, I agree that China plays a key role. It is a role they might play with Hugo Chavez, as well. (Although I doubt that Venezuela is as important for U.S. affairs in South America as Iran may become for U.S. affairs in the Middle East.) I'm more worried about the interim than about the final resolution.

    I never had a course in calculus. Heh. But treating human life as a statistic doesn't seem likely to lead to a moral victory…I am not a puritan pacifist; it's just that I take the view of the Tao Te Ching: that one should go to war as if one is going to a funeral. It should be solemn, and not a festival with banquets, back-patting, and bands playing.

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