Helena Luczywo at PostGlobal

Helena Luczywo

Warsaw, Poland

Helena Luczywo is the Managing Editor of Gazeta Wyborcza (Electoral Gazette), the first independent daily of a communist country founded in 1989 and now boasting the largest national daily readership in Poland. Close.

Helena Luczywo

Warsaw, Poland

Helena Luczywo is the Managing Editor of Gazeta Wyborcza (Electoral Gazette), the first independent daily of a communist country founded in 1989 and now boasting the largest national daily readership in Poland. more »

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Make a Democratic Federal State

Poland - Dividing Iraq into two, three or any number of ethnic enclaves would be a truly disastrous idea. Iraq has to remain as a multicultural, multiethnic regional power to counter growing and extremely aggresive ambitions of Islamic Iran....

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All Comments (29)

Jeff:

So you want the Iraqi killing Iraqi to continue?
This hatred goes back for hundreds if not thousands of years, and now you just want everyone to be at peace and accept a eutopian state......LOL.

The only solutuon the USA has is to break Iraq up into 3 different states, and those 3 states will have borders in which the Suni, shi'ite, and Kurds, will have a vested interest in protecting.
Since they will have this vested interest this will make it as so the car bombing will become less the attacks on iraqi vs iraqi will have to come to an end. As they protect thier new found border, the USA will uphold the law and have the no fly zones, attack insurgents in a surgicle manner, and remove themselves from the middle of what was once a civil war. The USA can sit at the edges in Kuate, Turkey, Jordon, and keep the peace.

Iran as do many european nations want to see Iraq melt down to nothing so as to take advantage of a bad situration. I did not agree with Bush and never have, probably never will, but now that we are there the USA needs to protect the interest (oil) and maintain peace.

Since the Iraqi people cannot keep from killing each other, then the only solution is to make 3 seperate states.

Anonymous:

Helena Luczywo represents Jewish influence in Eastern Europe. Her newspaper "Gazeta Wyborcza" is known in Poland for its jewish views on world matter. You may wonder where on Earth a twin brothers can be president and premier of a country. The former Pop was also a Polish. Although they can't say what they know about the fundamental mistake of Jewish belief in the Old testament I can do so. What ever god that dictate the killing of a child by his father for his satisfaction, that god is bad.

Whoever believe in that bad god will by logic commits bad deeds. That's why I have to return here more than twice to clean this mess.

3^3:

Việt nam was devided into 3 part by its colonial power started from 1858 war of conlonization. It's now a pseudo federal state :-) ?

The politics of division is obsolete now. You can't do divide and conquer any more. The trend in this world is to unite and destroy border.

Rashid Karadaghi:

Will Turkey ever come to its senses?

Seldom has there been an issue on which so much ink has been spent, especially by Kurds, as that of Turkey's outrageous behavior vis-à-vis the Kurdish people in South (Iraqi-occupied) Kurdistan leading up to, during, and now after Operation Iraqi Freedom. (I say "Iraqi-occupied" Kurdistan because I believe that as long as Kurdistan remains part of Iraq in any shape or form, it will remain occupied; only when it becomes an independent state completely separated from Iraq will it not be so.)

Yet, one wonders if all of that has made a dent in Turkey's totally uncalled-for vicious attitude towards the Kurdish people. Most of what has been written has been published, of course, online on the Kurdish web sites, for Kurds are, for the most part, barred from publishing their views in the newspapers. I have sent articles to the leading newspapers in this country but not a single one has been published even though I express the mainstream Kurdish view, not a radical one. Yet, articles full of distortions and misinformation find their way into these same papers. Apparently, it is not only the fossils in the State and Defense Departments who side with their Turkish allies, but the news media as well.

Given Turkey's deep-rooted and pathological hatred for the Kurds and Kurdistan, one wonders if anything Kurds will say, write, or do --- short of disappearing from the face of the earth --- will ever give the Turks a pause in their non-stop war against all things Kurdish everywhere. The problem with Turkey is that almost a century after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey is still in denial of that event, for it still believes that it owns South Kurdistan and its people. Although Turkey has relinquished claims on most of what used to be Ottoman colonies, due to Arab power and Western support of Arabs' right to their land, it just can't bring itself to recognize that South Kurdistan is no longer an Ottoman colony.

Turkey has been threatening South Kurdistan with invasion since the Kurds drove the Iraqi army out of part of their homeland in the summer and fall of 1991 and liberated it from Saddam's hated rule. This threat of invasion, which is very real even today, has been based on the claim that the Kurds would declare independence, which is considered by Turkey as an unforgivable crime. First of all, declaring independence is not, unfortunately, part of the Kurdish leadership's agenda. Secondly, assuming it were, that is for the Kurds to decide and not for Turkey or Iraq or any of the other occupying states. It is, indeed, not only the height of arrogance and hypocrisy but of criminality for the Turks or the Arabs or the Persians to give themselves the right to decide whether the Kurds, a nation of 35-40 million people, can be independent in their own homeland or not. No one must have the right to decide the issue of Kurdish independence but the Kurds themselves.

The fact that the Kurdish nation has been denied its freedom and independence until now by the occupying states is a testament to the utter inhumanity and criminality of these states. And the fact that the international community has not only let these states get away with their crime but even encouraged it by always insisting on the so-called "territorial integrity" of the occupying states points to the moral bankruptcy of this so-called "community." A true community protects its members, all its members, instead of devouring them. The international community does have a hand in the persecution and genocide of the Kurdish people because, instead of calling for freedom for the Kurds, it has always called for the continuation of the status quo, knowing very well that the occupation of Kurdistan means terrorizing the Kurdish people and depriving the Kurdish individual of everything that would make him feel like a human being. If this is not support for terrorism against the Kurdish people, then what is it? What kind of UN is it when Kofi Anan doesn't utter a word against the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Kurds under Saddam's Arabization of Kurdistan and now when he finally opens his mouth he is against the return of the ethnically cleansed Kurds to their own homes from which they were forcibly driven out.

In the period leading up to Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Turks were very worried that the Kurds might make some gains as a result of the war of liberation. So, they tried every trick in the book and used every scare tactic and even the pretext of "humanitarian" concerns for possible refugees (How about that for a joke?) to get their troops in South Kurdistan to make sure that the Kurds did not step out of line. Luckily for the Kurds, none of those tricks worked and the Turks were kept out, for the most part, and away from creating trouble for the Kurds and undermining their alliance with the US.

Still, the masters of trickery haven't given up on muddying the waters for the Kurds. According to news reports of the last few days in Time magazine and The New York Times, two dozen heavily armed Turkish Special Forces were caught by American troops at a checkpoint outside Kirkuk trying to smuggle all kinds of arms and explosives to some Turkoman elements in the city in order to create chaos in the city and give Turkey the excuse it has been looking for all along to meddle in Kurdish affairs. This criminal act by The Turkish Special Forces is not only an act against the Kurds but also against the Americans, who are charged with maintaining security in the area. Still, instead of arresting these would-be saboteurs and exposing the Turkish government's criminal act, the American troops merely escorted the Turkish commandoes back across the border --- perhaps to come back again without getting caught!

And to add insult to injury, when the Turkish deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, was asked what those Turkish commandoes were doing and why they were taking all those weapons and explosives with them, he replied, with a straight face, that they were protecting the humanitarian convoy on its way to Kirkuk! Mr. Gul must really take people for fools if he thinks they will believe his claim. And assuming there was a humanitarian convoy, should Turkey have sent all those weapons of death with it? This is why the US-led coalition must never give Turkey any peace-keeping role whatsoever in Kurdistan or Iraq because it will abuse that trust and use its role as a peace-keeper to create discord, wage war, and sew death instead of promoting peace.

To the Turkish government and military, if there isn't a Saddam-style rule in what they call "Northern Iraq" to terrorize the Kurds and demolish their homes, it means there is a political and security vacuum that needs to be filled --- perhaps by them! Thus, as far as the Turks are concerned, there has been a "vacuum" in the Kurdish-administered part of South Kurdistan since Saddam's forces were thrown out of there in 1991 and there will be a "vacuum" until, they hope, another anti-Kurd regime in Baghdad reoccupies the liberated part of Kurdistan. Turkey abhors this "vacuum" and can't rest until it is filled. What the Turks can't stand and refuse to accept is that since 1991 and for the first time in recent Kurdish history and in a section of Kurdistan, the Kurdish people have not been terrorized by their rulers because those rulers are from them and not occupiers. What the Turks can't swallow is that the Kurds have been able, thanks to the no-fly zone enforced by the US and Britain, to build a democratic, open, tolerant and free society in Kurdistan that, by all measures, is unique in the whole region of the Middle East. But all of that achievement is immaterial as far as the Turks are concerned, for the poor little "vacuum" is still there and is expanding and may devour all the enemies of the Kurds. In fact, it is those Kurdish achievements that the Turks hate the most. When Abdullah Gul was asked a few days ago how long Turkish troops would stay in "Northern Iraq," he replied that their presence will continue "Because there is still a security vacuum!"

The depth of Turkish hatred for the word "Kurdistan" and the Kurdish people everywhere defies explanation. Other countries and peoples may hate each other and even go to war with each other at a certain time in their history, but over time they get over their hatred and work out their problems. However, the Turkish brand of hatred is unique in that it is limitless, constant, aggressive, pervasive, relentless, absolute, and never-ending. It is a hatred that borders on madness. It is as if Turkey has one mission in life, which is to do everything in its power to deny the Kurds the right to life and liberty at any cost. To cite examples of this hatred will require enough books to fill a room. Nevertheless, I will mention just one incident, which happened very recently. It was reported in the news that a Turkish MP had asked a visiting US Congressman to have the sign "Welcome to Kurdistan" removed and replaced with "Welcome to Iraq." This MP is not alone in his hatred of Kurdistan; he is typical of a whole nation that has been fed anti-Kurdish propaganda for a century and has come to believe it without ever questioning it.

Whether Turkey will finally come to its senses or not regarding its relations with the Kurdish people is up to her. One thing is certain, though: There will be an independent Kurdish state whether Turkey likes it or not. It is not if there will be such a state but when. Nothing can stop the Kurds from realizing their long overdue legitimate right to statehood. Turkey can choose to have a friendly state on its southern border that can perhaps even help her economically because of its vast economic resources, or it can choose to have an unfriendly one. The Kurds certainly prefer the first choice because it is in the interest of both nations. Now it is up to Turkey to make up her mind and make her choice.

Dr Rebwar Fatah:

Revealing the facts about the Kurdish Genocide: All part of the US occupation-package

The former Iraqi government massacred at least 182,000 Kurds in the late 1980s.

"(Remember) when your Lord revealed to the angels, "Verily I am with you, so keep firm those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who have disbelieved, so strike them over the necks and smite over all their fingers and toes. This is because they defied and disobeyed Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad). And whoever defies and disobeys Allah and His Messenger, them verily, Allah is Severe in punishment. This is (the torment), so taste it and surely, for the disbelievers is the torment of the Fire."
(Surat Al-Anfal - Spoils of War- 8:12-14)


Anfal - Spoils of War

Anfal was one of the methods under which the genocide against the Kurds and their identity was conducted. In seeking to erase the Kurdish identity by an Arab regime, Anfal became the identity of the Kurds itself.

How many other methods were conducted and what were the magnitudes of these atrocities? No one knows for certain. What is known, however, is that the pieces of the genocide-jigsaw are scattered all over Iraq, throughout the region and across the world.

The Iraqi regime conducted the campaign and Iraq buried the bodies. Young girls were sold as slaves to happy buyers from the Arab Gulf states. The more Kurds Saddam killed, the more loans Arab states, including Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, gave to Iraq. In the eyes of Arabs, Saddam was the Guard of the "Eastern Gate to the Arab World".

The necessary technology and expertise were imported from the international community, in particular the West. They viewed the genocide of the Kurds as the internal affair of Iraq, not to be interfered with according to the terms of the United Nations. Western politicians bought time by lying through their teeth to probing journalists.

The international community accepted Saddam's bleeding of the Kurds as long as cheap Iraqi oil bled for them. The UN, characteristically, showed no interest in the genocide of the Kurds. The guilt is collective, the evidence resounding. The entire international community had dipped its hands into the weeping pools of Kurdish blood.

And even now, the complicity continues. Despite having ousted Saddam's regime, the international community shows no interest in this genocide. Think of how many hours the United Nations deliberated over Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. One would expect the UN to question how these weapons were deployed. But the UN follows another agenda, one that does not embarrass the 22 Arab states most of which were loyal to Saddam's rule and the territorial integrity of Iraq. And then there is the UN's sensitivity to Turkey, who wants to keep 'Kurds' and 'Kurdistan' out of the international community's vocabulary.

How many more deaths would it take for the Kurdish issue to capture the UN's attention?

The US Covers the Smoking Gun

On May the 11th, 2003, another mass grave was found. Inside were the remains of more than 1,000 people, men, women, children and babies. Their clothes revealed that they were Kurds. But this knowledge is far from sufficient. Who were these people? Which part of Kurdistan did they come from? How long had they been waiting to be uncovered? How were they killed? How much did they suffer? Who stood by as the bodies were buried?

Unfortunately, vital answers to these questions remain forever lost. There are no forensic anthropologists to carefully excavate these graves. Instead, unqualified people with good hearts, dig out the remains as families wait by the graves. They hold pictures of their family members hoping that maybe an identity card, a pen, a scrap of fabric from the local tailor will deliver the certainty of loss. Few will be so lucky. For the vast majority, their dashed hopes will be reburied with the remains.

Having almost convinced the world of the moral imperative to end Saddam's rule, the US has lost its interest in moral causes - especially the Kurdish genocide.

One cannot help anticipating that the US-led collation does not care for the Kurds. They are in Iraq to pursue their own agenda. They don't have the time or the stomach to pay tribute to the discovery of mass graves of Kurdish victims of Saddam. Instead, they rush to mourn and lament the death of a single member of their own tribe - that of privileged Westerners.

I believe that western victims deserve our respect and dignity, for any loss of human life is a tragedy. But one would expect the US occupying forces, at least as part of their mandate and obligations, to have some interest in the discovery of mass graves. Sadly the occupying forces in Iraq have closed their eyes and ears to these mass graves and locals have neither the technology nor the expertise to establish the identity of their loved ones.

Imagine this scenario. A father looks at a mass grave of his village. He is certain that the bodies of his wife and children are lying amongst them and yet he has no idea which one of the dead are his beloved ones. What human or holy laws can tolerate that after nearly 15 years of suffering the father can not yet put his mind to rest?

We are witnessing an important moment in human history. An intolerable regime that raged for 35 years has been removed, leaving Iraq like a complex jigsaw whose pieces are scattered all over Iraq. We need to find them and put them together.

Understanding the mentality of individuals in the former Iraqi regime, the mechanism by which the regime operated, the states that assisted Iraq in conducting the atrocities, is vital to ensure that history does not repeat itself.

How can democracy be built in Iraq without knowing what Iraq and the Iraqi people, including the Kurds, endured under the last regime? How can one reassure the people of Iraq that what they went through will not be repeated?

Can the US-led coalition really abandon its operations without finding all the facts about the atrocities that the former Iraqi regime conducted?

What should be done?

• An extensive search must be conducted for mass graves all over Iraq.

• The surviving victims need to be consulted by specialists in order to piece together what really happened to the victims.

• Relatives when possible and immediate families of Anfal victims should undergo DNA tests in efforts to match the DNA tests from the bones discovered in the mass graves.

• A database should be developed to record the disappeared victims and their surviving relatives. A considerable amount of work has been done to date and must be supported.

The US must take the leading role regarding this issue. They chose to become the occupying force in Iraq and there are responsibilities to bear.

Rauf Naqishbendi:

The US has to stop executing Turkish policy towards Kurds

Recent developments indicate that the United States seems to be apathetic toward Kurdish inspiration for freedom. Kurds see the U.S. maintaining Arabization of Kurdistan imposed on them by Saddam's regime. Moreover, the U.S. leans more toward Turkey with knowledge of Turkey's hostility and barbarism toward Kurds. Once more, it seems like that Kurds will be the casualty of a U.S.-Turkey alliance as they have been for the past half a century. If the U.S. is not to reevaluate its foreign policy toward Turkey, it could face a disgraceful defeat in Iraq and alienate its only true ally, the Kurds.

Since the end of the first Gulf war in 1991, U.S. forces have been protecting Kurds from Saddam under the "no fly zone". Thus, Kurds were pleased with this protection, however their reception toward this protection was cautious. The reason was while Kurds were protected from Saddam, during that same period, the Turkish army invaded Kurdistan more than once and they didn't pullout completely. As I write this, Turks are still occupying areas of Kurdistan near its 'border', not mentioning its almost century long occupation of northern Kurdistan.

We the Kurds know that when it comes to our conflict with Turkey, the U.S. always sides with Turkey, just as if the U.S. state department acts on behalf of Turkey. During the Iraq war, Turkey reneged on its promise to help the U.S., yet the trips back and forth between Washington, Istanbul and Ankara is nonstop by the members of congress, senate and US government officials. With everything that happened between the U.S. and Turkey, over Turks giving the cold shoulders to the Coalition war against Iraq, still the U.S. State department is calling Turkey a good friend and still U.S. foreign aid is pouring into Turkey.

Kurds have been frustrated for a long time with the U.S.'s military, monetary and political aid to Turkey, for it was the U.S. aid that empowered Turks to crack down every Kurdish attempt toward their freedom. At the time that the U.S. was protecting Kurds from Saddam under the "no fly zone" the C.I. A., the F.B.I. and their dear friends at the Israeli Intelligence Agency were hunting Kurdish freedom fighters in Turkey and abroad. They labeled the PKK as a "terrorist" organisation, as they looked the other way concerning atrocities and acts of terror committed by Turkish Kemalist State against Kurds for nearly half a century.

Furthermore the U. S., the world champion of freedom, ignored the plight of fifteen million Kurds in Turkey and kept pumping near half a trillion dollars of loans to Turkey during the past two decades through International Monetary Fund (IMF). All the while knowing Turkey would never be able to pay it back, hence, free money rather than a loan. During that same period the U.S. has ignored all the reports of horrendous human rights documented by well respected human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The U.S. at least could have attached some human rights strings to their generous aid to Turkey, but they didn't do so, for the U.S., just like Turkey, has not recognized the Kurdish national rights.

It is a contradiction, that while the U. S. is committed to democracy in Iraq, and that includes the Kurds, it does not seem to be too worried about Turkey? Do Kurds in Turkey deserve the same right as their counterparts in Iraq? If yes, why is the U.S. so deaf and mute towards their plight for freedom and their oppression by Turkey? If the U.S. really means what it preaches about freedom and liberty, then why don't they influence Turks at least to give Kurds in Turkey their linguistic and cultural rights? These are the contradictions that the U.S. created in its policy and this is a clear example of the U.S. double standard when it comes to human rights, and balance between their slogan for freedom, human rights and their practices.

Recently, the Turkish government got caught exporting weapons to its fifth column in south Kurdistan, the Turkmen Front. Those same weapons were used to cause disturbances in Kirkuk and to help the creation of Turkmen terrorists to aggravate the current chaos in Iraq. Yet, the U.S. was indifferent. On the other hand, the U.S. administration and state department had harsh words for Iran, when it discovered that the Iranians were harboring terrorists. Here we go again, the double standard; one for Iran and another for Turkey, and no matter what Turkey does, it seems to be all right with the U.S.

The villages around the city of Kirkuk, a Kurdish populated area for centuries, had been by force, populated with a pro-Saddam population. Once Saddam was gone, the residents of these villages fled. The Kurds came back to reclaim their properties, but the U.S. troops forced them out and brought back the pro-Saddam Arabs just to keep Saddam's Arabization status quo. In addition, Turkmens in Kirkuk attacked the Kurds, yet U.S. troops came and disarmed the Kurds and left the armed Turkmen's alone. Why this double standard? Is it to keep the friends in Ankara happy while offering the Kurds lip service.

The U.S. as a world's superpower needs not be intimidated by the Turks and must realize that if it wasn't for Kurds, or if Kurds were to side with Saddam, they could have made the situation in Iraq far more difficult, and at some point devastating to the U.S. So far, Kurds have been silent toward the U.S. mixed signals, but if the U.S. is to continue executing Turkish policy rather than their own in Iraq, regrettably the U.S. can loose Kurds and that without any doubt will pronounce the U.S.'s defeat in Iraq and a democratic Iraq will become an impossiblity.

In the final analysis, the establishment of Iraqi government that is pro-American will fail on the face of American past and present foreign policy practices. The U.S. occupation made a big mess in Iraq, and the mess will become bigger for Iraqi people as well the U.S. Should the U.S. prestige and reputation in the Middle East burn in the flames of Mesopotamian conflicts, the U. S. has its own double standard, inconsistent and unfair foreign policy practices to blame.

Dr Rashid Karadaghi:

Why are we part of Iraq anyway?


I wrote an article over a year ago entitled "Is iraq really indivisible?" in which I argued that "The division of Iraq into two independent states, Kurdistan and Iraq, would be the best thing that could ever happen to that country." With each passing day, I become more and more convinced that that position was right then and even more so today.

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The state of Iraq was the brainchild of some demented British colonial officers who had no regard or loyalty for anything but the British Empire
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The state of Iraq was the brainchild of some demented British colonial officers who had no regard or loyalty for anything but the British Empire on which, it was said at the time, "the sun never sets." They certainly had no regard at all for the Kurdish people, their rights as a nation, their concerns or interests; consequently, they created for them a hell on earth that they haven't been able to get out of since their misbegotten creation was born eighty years ago.

Like millions of Kurds, I believe that one of the biggest crimes that the victorious Allies committed after WW1 was to deny our people statehood. But that was then and now is now. To dwell on all the horrible wrongs and misdeeds committed against us in the past can be beneficial only if it can give impetus to our cause today, but to feel sorry for ourselves and wallow in our victimization will do us no good. We must not allow a terrible past dictate our future.

Our people must not suffer in perpetuity because of what some heartless colonialists did to us almost a century ago. In an age when most of the previously oppressed people of the world have won their freedom, our people must not be content with anything less than their complete liberation from occupation and oppression.

Thus, instead of being busy writing a new Iraqi constitution and thereby legitimizing eighty more years of Anfals and Halabjas by the same state that has brought us nothing but death and destruction, our leaders should be writing a constitution for a free Kurdisan. Instead of renewing our undying loyalty to the unity of a state which will not hesitate, the minute it gets back on its feet, to commit new genocides against our people, like all other previous Iraqi regimes, our leaders should be thinking of the quickest way to end that unity and sever forever that master-slave relationship.

We must reject the defeatist notion advocated by some amongst us that somehow our fate has been sealed forever by geography and history and we are destined to remain part of the state that has brought us nothing but suffering and genocide during its entire existence and will certainly cause us more of the same in the future if we remain part of it. The tragedies of Halabja and the Anfal were not caused by geography but by man. The man-made, artificial borders which divide Kurdistan were not drawn up by destiny but by man, hence they can also be changed and corrected by man. If there ever were a time to undo the injustice done to us and tear down the walls of the dark prison called Iraq, now is that time.

When all is said and done, the truly important issue before our people today is whether we who have been victims of one of the biggest injustices done to any people in history will uphold and even glorify that injustice or reject it categorically. Hasn't the corner stone of Kurdish patriotism always been fighting this injustice from the very day it was imposed on us? What exactly happened to that spirit? Are we all now Iraqis first and Kurds second?

And what happened to the memory of thousands of Kurdish martyrs who gave their life so their people would be free? Aren't we forgetting what our people's struggle has always been about when we sing the praises of Iraqism instead of Kurdish independence even as new mass graves of innocent Kurds are being discovered every day? Weren't these innocent Kurds and thousands of others murdered by the same state that our leaders want us to rejoin and rebuild? Aren't we sowing the seeds of more Halabjas and Anfals by voluntarily walking back into the prison?

The many thousands of our Kurdish brethren who died for freedom --- be it in combat against the occupiers of our homeland when our Peshmargas' slogan used to be "Kurdistan or Death," or in Iraqi torture chambers, or by execution squads, or by poison gas in Halabja and the other not-so-well-known towns and villages, or by being buried alive in the Southern Iraqi deserts in the murderous Anfal campaign, or by bombardment as in Qaladiza and countless other communities, or by freezing to death like the many hundreds but thousands of innocent little children in the mass exodus of 1991, or in the many other ruthless ways carried out by the regime in Baghdad --- would be shocked if they could only hear for just once on the two Kurdish satellite television channels, KurdSat and Kurdistan TV, what has become their daily mantra since the liberation of Iraq:

O, Iraq, my beloved country!
O, Iraq, my trustworthy country!
I worship every inch of your soil!
We are all your protectors O, Iraq!

Fearing an Arab, Turkish, and Iranian backlash, the dominant, official Kurdish point of view seems compelled to favor federalism over independence; in fact, there is no mention of independence at all even as a goal. Regardless of its specious justifications, this point of view totally disregards the bitter experience of the Kurdish people with successive repressive Iraqi regimes. This vision can only be described as the triumph of hope over experience and of timidity over boldness. It clearly reflects the minimalist approach does not do any justice to the enormous sacrifices that our people have made for the sake of freedom. It runs contrary to the failed experiment with this kind of unworkable relationship in other countries, such as the defunct Yugoslavia and Soviet Union. I say "unworkable" because it is an inherently unequal and disastrous relationship between a dominant ethnic group or culture and a weaker one, which has to count on the good will of Big Brother --- the last possible source of such a thing in the world.

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Leaders support and promote every other oppressed people's demand for independence but their own.
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It is truly a mystery why our leaders support and promote every other oppressed people's demand for independence but their own. The Kurdish people deserve a good explanation for this inexplicable stance, other than the tired, old, and utterly unconvincing argument of "realism" and "the art of the possible." If it is realistic for the Palestinians to get their independent state ---and they certainly should --- it should be realistic for the Kurds, too. I remember when we used to hear many years ago from those who were quite skilled at brainwashing us that it wasn't yet the right time to talk about things like Kurdish self-determination and that the time for that would come only after our Arab brethren in their occupied land were liberated and got their independence! While we might be forgiven for our incredible political naivete in those days, as we not only listened to that nonsense but were also taken by it, we have absolutely no excuse for falling for it now when practically most underdog nations have achieved their freedom and the United Nation's membership has swollen to 191.

There is a great irony in the fact that the idea of a gradual Kurdish independence through a natural disintegration of Iraq as a country should come not from our own leaders but from a non-Kurd. I am referring here to a news report in kurdishMedia.com on June 21 in which Mr. Peter Galbraith, the former US ambassador to Croatia, was quoted as saying that the US must not worry if a peaceful and voluntary division of the federal system happens in Iraq similar to the Czechoslovakian style. (It should be mentioned here that Mr. Galbraith is no stranger to our cause, as he has been one of the most loyal and steadfast supporters of our people's fight for freedom, for which we are eternally grateful.) Obviously, Kurds are puzzled as to why the U.S. would "worry" if the Kurds get what 191 other nations already have. (Of these, 131 are less numerous than the Kurds.) If freedom is such a bad thing, why isn't it being denied to all those nations as well? The U.S. and other true democracies need not only not "worry" if Kurdisan becomes an independent sate but should embrace the event enthusiastically because such a state would be a reaffirmation of human dignity and a bastion of freedom and democracy in the Middle East.

Mr. Galbraith was also on target when he said in his testimony before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 12 that, "...Virtually no Kurd would choose to be Iraqi if given a free choice." Again, Mr. Galbraith is far more accurate in gauging the pulse of the Kurdish people than those among us who claim that "We are Iraqis first and Kurds second." Now the real question to ask of the decision-makers in the US and Europe and all those who are involved in the Kurdish issue, including our own leaders, is "Why aren't the Kurds given that 'free choice'? And doesn't the mere fact that they are not being given that choice mean that they are being held captive and ruled by a foreign power against their will?"

Finally, we simply wonder how any Kurd can uphold Iraqi unity and glorify the big lie of "Arab-Kurdish brotherhood" when we all know that the relationship has been anything but brotherly ---- unless, of course, killing thousands of people with poison gas, burying hundreds of thousands alive and dynamiting their homes, and terrorizing an entire people for decades can be considered acts of brotherly love.

Dr Hussein Tahiri:

Iran: inside turmoil and outside threat

As Middle Eastern regimes rule over their own people through suppression and deprivation, their unpopularity increases and become vulnerable to threat from outside powers. The Iraqi case was a clear example; the speedy collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime was a result of the unpopularity of his regime and decades of his tyranny.

The Islamic Republic of Iran seems to be facing a similar situation. With increasing threat from the United States the Iranian regime feels more vulnerable than ever, but instead of having learned a lesson from the Iraqi case it has increased its suppression of the Iranian population, especially students who have participated in protests against the regime.

Now the Iranian regime is experiencing turmoil inside and increasingly being threatened by the United States as a part of the "axis of evil".

Why does the United States want to change the Islamic regime of Iran?

Before the Islamic revolution, Iran was considered the most stable country in the region and one of the main US supporters. It was not only a bulwark against the Soviet Union but a protector of Western interests in the region.

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Iran - a fundamental challenge to the US supremacy and influence in the Middle East.
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Soon after the overthrow of the Shah and the assumption of power by the Islamic Republic of Iran, there was a fundamental challenge to the US supremacy and influence in the Middle East. Following the Iranian Revolution the oil price skyrocketed and the United States and Israel became the main targets of the new Iranian regime. On 4 November 1979, a group of Iranian students stormed the American embassy in Tehran and took 53 American diplomats hostage. Therefore, anti-American sentiments were promoted. On September 24, 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini told Muslims making the pilgrimage to Mecca:

My Muslim brothers and sisters! You are aware that the superpowers of East and West are plundering all our material and other resources, and have placed us in a situation of political, economic, cultural and military dependence. Come to your senses; rediscover your Islamic identity! Endure oppression no longer, and vigilantly expose the criminal plans of the international bandits, headed by America.[1]

Also, the new Islamic regime in Iran tended to spread its revolution to other Islamic countries. Dozens of Islamic fundamentalist groups were created or revived in Lebanon, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkey. The conservative and pro-American governments in the region were alarmed and threatened.

At that time the United States and its allies faced opposition from Islamic resurgents and the Soviet Union. The anti-American sentiments were reinforced on two fronts: by the Soviet Union and the Islamic regime in Iran.

However, there have been significant changes since then. The Soviet Union that was a deterrent against the US expansion does not exist anymore. There is a "new world order" and that is "the American way". As George Bush Senior put it, "what we say goes".

Under the "new world order" or rather post "new world order" the United States, as a part of its strategic plan for the Middle East, is in the process of changing the structure of the Middle East region. US intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq are two cases in point. It seems that Iran will be the next target. The days in which Iran could challenge (at least by words) the United States have gone.

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Conservatives in Pentagon seem very determined to change the political map of the Middle East.
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This time the new conservatives in Pentagon seem very determined to change the political map of the Middle East. The new conservatives in the US administration have come to dominate American foreign policy. They promote a new world order in which America will play a leading role. With coming into power of George Bush Junior it seems that what the "new conservatives say goes".

It is essential to briefly outline what are the aims and objectives of the new conservatives (as was outlined in their draft policy in 1991) to shed some lights on the actions of the United States in the Middle East. The new conservatives have three main objectives:

a) To prevent the re-emergence of a new rival

The aim is to prevent any hostile power sufficient to generate global power dominating a region. The United State aims to dissuade them from aspiring to become such a power.

b To safeguard US interests and promote American values

The new conservatives argue that the US should promote respect for international laws, limit international violence and encourage the spread of democratic forms of government and open economic systems.

For the new conservatists issues that could threaten American national interests are access to vital raw materials, primarily Persian Gulf oil, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, threat to US citizens from terrorism or regional or local conflicts, and threats to US society from narcotics trafficking.

c) To take unilateral action

The US approach is to promote collective action and it expects future coalitions to be ad hoc assemblies formed to deal with a particular crisis. The new conservatives believe that as the new world order is ultimately backed by the United States, it should take a unilateral action when collective action cannot be orchestrated.

As such, the United States wants to get rid of the Islamic regime of Iran as an anti-US government and as a part of the "axis of evil" to implement the objectives in the Pentagon. This will be done to prevent Iran's emergence as a regional power given that Iraq, a main rival of Iran, is weakened and to safeguard US interests and promote American values, which have been opposed by the Islamic regime of Iran so far.

In order to do that the United States might take unilateral action, if it cannot form a coalition against Iran. This action may come in different ways but what is more essential for the US would be regime change in Iran. George W. Bush declared his support for students who want reforms, freedom and the end of the clergy's rule in Iran.

The United States has already been documenting evidence against Iran. Iran has been accused of harbouring the Al-Qaedeh terrorists. Already, the presence of atomic reactors in Iran has deeply concerned the United States. The USA believes that Iran's nuclear program makes sense only if it intended to develop nuclear weapons as Iran has sufficient oil resources not to need atomic energy. Should Iran succeed in building nuclear weapons both US's interests in the region and Israel will be under threat. Surely, the US does not want to face such a dilemma as in North Korea. Therefore, the US will try to change the regime in Iran before it is able to build nuclear weapons.

Despite being threatened by the United States, the Islamic Republic of Iran has continued to suppress the Iranian population to hold its grip over power. Instead of learning a lesson from the Iraqi situation, democratising Iran and allowing reforms it has been more vigorously suppressing any opposition in Iran. Recently, there have been reports of Kurdish opposition members being executed by the regime and now students being arrested and suppressed for their protests.

The suppression of the Iranian population would precipitate regime change in Iran. In the event that the United States attacks Iran or tries to change the regime in any other way, instead of opposing the US, many Iranians if not actively aligning themselves with the US, will support US action. This is a very unfortunate situation for a regime which has alienated itself.

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Iran needs to abandon the suppression of the Kurds and grant the Kurds their cultural and political rights.
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There is a lesson to be learnt by the Islamic Republic of Iran in relation to the Kurdish issue. Iran needs to abandon the suppression of the Kurds and grant the Kurds their cultural and political rights. The Iraqi case is again clear evidence that, in any eventual US attack on Iran, Iranian Kurdistan would be the first place to be freed.

Notes:[1] Henry Munsor, JR. Islam and Revolution in The Middle East, Yale University Press, New Heaven, 1988, p.3.

By Leslie H. Gelb:

The Three-State Solution

President Bush's new strategy of transferring power quickly to Iraqis, and his critics' alternatives, share a fundamental flaw: all commit the United States to a unified Iraq, artificially and fatefully made whole from three distinct ethnic and sectarian communities. That has been possible in the past only by the application of overwhelming and brutal force.

President Bush wants to hold Iraq together by conducting democratic elections countrywide. But by his daily reassurances to the contrary, he only fans devastating rumors of an American pullout. Meanwhile, influential senators have called for more and better American troops to defeat the insurgency. Yet neither the White House nor Congress is likely to approve sending more troops.

And then there is the plea, mostly from outside the United States government, to internationalize the occupation of Iraq. The moment for multilateralism, however, may already have passed. Even the United Nations shudders at such a nightmarish responsibility.

The only viable strategy, then, may be to correct the historical defect and move in stages toward a three-state solution: Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center and Shiites in the south.

Almost immediately, this would allow America to put most of its money and troops where they would do the most good quickly -- with the Kurds and Shiites. The United States could extricate most of its forces from the so-called Sunni Triangle, north and west of Baghdad, largely freeing American forces from fighting a costly war they might not win. American officials could then wait for the troublesome and domineering Sunnis, without oil or oil revenues, to moderate their ambitions or suffer the consequences.

This three-state solution has been unthinkable in Washington for decades. After the Iranian revolution in 1979, a united Iraq was thought necessary to counter an anti-American Iran. Since the gulf war in 1991, a whole Iraq was deemed essential to preventing neighbors like Turkey, Syria and Iran from picking at the pieces and igniting wider wars.

But times have changed. The Kurds have largely been autonomous for years, and Ankara has lived with that. So long as the Kurds don't move precipitously toward statehood or incite insurgencies in Turkey or Iran, these neighbors will accept their autonomy. It is true that a Shiite self-governing region could become a theocratic state or fall into an Iranian embrace. But for now, neither possibility seems likely.
There is a hopeful precedent for a three-state strategy: Yugoslavia after World War II. In 1946, Marshal Tito pulled together highly disparate ethnic groups into a united Yugoslavia. A Croat himself, he ruled the country from Belgrade among the majority and historically dominant Serbs. Through clever politics and personality, Tito kept the peace peacefully.

When Tito died in 1980, several parts of Yugoslavia quickly declared their independence. The Serbs, with superior armed forces and the arrogance of traditional rulers, struck brutally against Bosnian Muslims and Croats.

Europeans and Americans protested but -- stunningly and unforgivably -- did little at first to prevent the violence. Eventually they gave the Bosnian Muslims and Croats the means to fight back, and the Serbs accepted separation. Later, when Albanians in the Serb province of Kosovo rebelled against their cruel masters, the United States and Europe had to intervene again. The result there will be either autonomy or statehood for Kosovo.

The lesson is obvious: overwhelming force was the best chance for keeping Yugoslavia whole, and even that failed in the end. Meantime, the costs of preventing the natural states from emerging had been terrible.

The ancestors of today's Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds have been in Mesopotamia since before modern history. The Shiites there, unlike Shiites elsewhere in the Arab world, are a majority. The Sunnis of the region gravitate toward pan-Arabism. The non-Arab Kurds speak their own language and have always fed their own nationalism.

The Ottomans ruled all the peoples of this land as they were: separately. In 1921, Winston Churchill cobbled the three parts together for oil's sake under a monarch backed by British armed forces. The Baathist Party took over in the 1960's, with Saddam Hussein consolidating its control in 1979, maintaining unity through terror and with occasional American help.

Today, the Sunnis have a far greater stake in a united Iraq than either the Kurds or the Shiites. Central Iraq is largely without oil, and without oil revenues, the Sunnis would soon become poor cousins.

The Shiites might like a united Iraq if they controlled it -- which they could if those elections Mr. Bush keeps promising ever occur. But the Kurds and Sunnis are unlikely to accept Shiite control, no matter how democratically achieved. The Kurds have the least interest in any strong central authority, which has never been good for them.

A strategy of breaking up Iraq and moving toward a three-state solution would build on these realities. The general idea is to strengthen the Kurds and Shiites and weaken the Sunnis, then wait and see whether to stop at autonomy or encourage statehood.

The first step would be to make the north and south into self-governing regions, with boundaries drawn as closely as possible along ethnic lines. Give the Kurds and Shiites the bulk of the billions of dollars voted by Congress for reconstruction. In return, require democratic elections within each region, and protections for women, minorities and the news media.

Second and at the same time, draw down American troops in the Sunni Triangle and ask the United Nations to oversee the transition to self-government there. This might take six to nine months; without power and money, the Sunnis may cause trouble.

For example, they might punish the substantial minorities left in the center, particularly the large Kurdish and Shiite populations in Baghdad. These minorities must have the time and the wherewithal to organize and make their deals, or go either north or south. This would be a messy and dangerous enterprise, but the United States would and should pay for the population movements and protect the process with force.

The Sunnis could also ignite insurgencies in the Kurdish and Shiite regions. To counter this, the United States would already have redeployed most of its troops north and south of the Sunni Triangle, where they could help arm and train the Kurds and Shiites, if asked.

The third part of the strategy would revolve around regional diplomacy. All the parties will suspect the worst of one another -- not without reason. They will all need assurances about security. And if the three self-governing regions were to be given statehood, it should be done only with the consent of their neighbors. The Sunnis might surprise and behave well, thus making possible a single and loose confederation. Or maybe they would all have to live with simple autonomy, much as Taiwan does with respect to China.

For decades, the United States has worshiped at the altar of a unified yet unnatural Iraqi state. Allowing all three communities within that false state to emerge at least as self-governing regions would be both difficult and dangerous. Washington would have to be very hard-headed, and hard-hearted, to engineer this breakup. But such a course is manageable, even necessary, because it would allow us to find Iraq's future in its denied but natural past.

Leslie H. Gelb, a former editor and columnist for The Times, is president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations

Rowsch Shaweiss:

Human rights, Kurds, and the future of Iraq

Human rights terminology was virtually non-existent in the political, social, and administrative dictionary of the former Iraqi regime. Human rights were casually violated on a daily basis. Genocidal acts occurred in many forms, from the north to the south of Iraq. Chemical weapons were used all across the northern Iraqi Kurdistan Region from the northwest near the Turkish border to the southeast near the Iranian border in dozens of locations. Halabja was but one of many incidents, and the most infamous.

This was all part of a campaign, the "Anfal Campaign," that saw the disappearance of over 100,000 civilians and the destruction of over 4,000 communities, including large towns of over 50,000 residents. Tens of thousands of families fled to neighboring countries, or were forcibly relocated to reservation-like, so-called "collective" towns away from their livelihoods. Thousands more families were forced off their lands in a process commonly called Arabization.

Not only the people of Iraqi Kurdistan suffered to the extreme. Other Iraqis were subjected to atrocities and other human rights violations.
The people of Iraq endured 35 years of oppression and atrocities that excelled in creativity and cruelty. Many of us have endured to see the downfall of one of the most brutal regimes in human history. There are many among us who were deliberately deprived of the opportunity to endure. Let us never forget them. Let us never forget the dozens of mass graves that continue to be discovered.

Iraq is a uniquely rich country, not only rich in oil and water, but especially rich in its human resources. We are an educated, highly skilled, and hardworking people. Iraqis work. But today, we are a country mostly in ruins, with enormous debt, struggling hard to reconfigure ourselves and rush into a new future where personal security and political stability are the norms of everyday life throughout the country.

The former regime not only flagrantly violated human rights, but was also instrumental in destroying the very fabric of Iraqi society. Economic hardship in a very rich country, with underpaid civil servants, led to widespread corruption in all aspects of life. The crimes of the former regime are incalculable.

The international community has a moral duty to expose and examine these atrocities and to help the Iraqi people in healing very deep wounds. The survivors of genocide need to be treated, notably those who have suffered the effects of chemical weapons. Their losses need to be examined and restitution made in order for justice to prevail.

We know we are an important country, not only because of our oil, but also because of our location and the strong characteristics of our people. With our wealth, our skills, our hardworking nature, with our energies channeled in constructive directions, we have the potential to become one of the leading countries of the region, a country that lives in peace within itself and with its neighbors.

We are the victims and survivors of yesterday's Iraq. Only, to survive is not our ultimate aim. We are also the visionaries and builders of tomorrow's Iraq where every Iraqi life is lived with dignity, in prosperity, with full respect for the very word "life."

The current transitional government of Iraq may be new, but very capable people are handling all portfolios. Among 25 ministers, 17 are PhD holders, which makes our cabinet perhaps one of the most educated in the world. Their capacities and determination to function under the current very difficult circumstances are strong signs of hope for Iraq's future. In addition to the 24 portfolios in the cabinet, a Ministry of Human Rights was formed in order to concentrate attention on this important issue at the highest level of authority.

There may well be certain circles that doubt the rate of success of the present Iraqi government and also believe democracy cannot be introduced to Iraq, and human rights, after years of violations, will not be respected. I have news for them: Iraq can be democratic and will be democratic.

The people of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, since 1991 only one step away from the everyday brutality of the former regime, managed to conduct an exemplary experiment in developing democracy. Successful elections were held at the regional level and at the municipal level. Democratic institutions continue to be developed, and the Kurdistan National Assembly, our parliament, enjoys healthy debates. In the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, we have 12 years experience in building democracy. We are secure and stable. We believe our experiment and experience can be very well replicated and reflected throughout the rest of Iraq.

We may have a long road ahead of us. But we have a long road behind us. We know how to endure and struggle on long roads. The first step has been taken. And it has been a giant step. We feel we are no longer lonely travelers. We want the world to travel with us throughout our very promising journey. We want the world with us every step of the way to help us rebuild Iraq as a country where we both will enjoy each other's company and enjoy its prosperity and well being and promise.-Published 18/12/2003©bitterlemons-international.org

Dr Kamal Mirawdeli:

The two state solution: Divide and democratise!

This time I will present my analysis of the situation in Iraq in terms of questions and answers. This, I hope, will help to simplify the complexity of the situation and provide some answers to difficult questions, that is as far as I can.


What is happening in Iraq?

Well. It seems that the dialectics of occuliberation is tilting towards occupation and this creates resistance.

Is there resistance to occupation?

Now, yes. But not because it is occupation. Rather because it failed to fulfil its promise of liberation and democracy. The very continuation of instability and lack of any real perspective of peace and democracy mean that people are getting fed up. They lose hope. They lose trust. Then they return to their old habitual patterns.

What do you mean?

I mean liberation was not just the toppling of Saddam. Even Saddam himself is alive and kicking. He has been treated as prisoner of war. So the embodiment of tyranny is there. He has been visited by Red Cross. None of his co-murderers have been punished either. At the same time both mass graves and mass killings continue to demarcate Iraq. Saddam must be the happiest Iraqi person now wherever he may be. His legacy goes on.

Why is it so?

Liberation means making people free. And people themselves should decide how they can be free. I know it is not such a simple matter but with some understanding this process could have been simplified. People or rather the peoples of so-called Iraq should have been given opportunity of self-determination. You cannot liberate while insisting on keeping structures of coercion and oppression on the one hand and impose a Governing Council which has already become an example of cronyism, nepotism and corruption. The only thing that distances them from despotism is impotence and lack of power.

So you agree with Sistani that there should be, or have been, free elections to establish legitimate authority?

Yes, I agree with elections but not with what Sistani aims to achieve from elections. He wants to achieve freedom and power for his people, the Shias, who did suffer from Saddam's oppression, but he wants also freedom to deprive others from their freedom. He wants to replace Saddam, impose an Islamic state and ultimately practise oppression and genocide against those who disagree with Shi'te world vision. Muqtada Sadr wants to do all this right away with the power of sword not word.

In this case, how can elections be held to decide what people want or to achieve freedom as you describe it? First: elections will lead to the Shia's victory as they are the majority? Second, Iraq has not been ready for elections for security reasons?

True and wrong. True if we look at Iraq as one united whole and insist on keeping it as such. This is I think the essence of the failure of the coalition's policy in Iraq. But this approach is wrong. A lot could have been achieved if Paul Bremer had not stubbornly insisted on his illusion of one unified democratic Iraq. This is a contradiction in terms. Iraq can never be democratic as a one whole which can only be made possible through coercion or deception.

So it is a political failure which is in danger of being turned into a military one. One would think that the British who laid the bloody foundations of this violently-sustained Iraq would have become wiser and would initiate realistic achievable plans for restructuring Iraq. But it seems that Arab-influenced old thinking has prevailed so far. What I want to say is:

Yes, it was possible to have had elections in Iraq by now, after a year of occuliberation, and instead of this spread of violence, it was possible to have had in place institutions and structures of freedom and democratically-oriented processes.

But I do not mean Iraq-wide elections as Mr Bremer has wrongly planned and insisted upon!

From the start both Kurdistan and Shia areas were calm and supportive of liberation. The US and Britain should have recognised the simple fact that it would be impossible to bring these three entities with a bloody history of conflict together within one centralised state. Sistani should have been told "yes you can have elections in all Shia' areas to elect a regional assembly."

The Kurds would do the same in Kurdistan including Kirkuk and Mosul.

This would have reduced the problems the coalition suffer from by 75% and would have isolated the pro-Baath Sunnis forcing them eventually to give up violence or otherwise be defeated or neutralised paving the way for elections in Sunni areas too allowing them to elect their own assembly too.

In this way democracy could be established through decentralisation and neither Shia's nor Sunnis would be allowed to control others. The right framework for the emergence of civil society institutions would have been established. By now the coalition could show the world 90% success with money flowing in from everywhere for reconstruction and regional powers would be too embarrassed or frightened to be able to interfere. But without political solution even economic reconstruction would be impossible.

Why did this not happen?

This has not happened yet because of ignorance and arrogance, because of political failure, because of lack of courage and imagination, because truth was replaced by lies for political purposes. Because everyone lied to Americans and Americans lied to themselves as they seemed to be interested only in ensuring the flow and export of oil and keeping Kurdistan as an Arab colony.

Ahmad Chalabi lied to the Americans, exaggerated his non-existing support and the reliability of information his imaginary spies collecting for Americans. He gathered around himself a gang of opportunists attracted by CIA money who argued wrongly that Iraq can become a democracy within days after the fall of Saddam! Alawi and Hakim did the same.

The Kurdish leaders lied to Americans and betrayed their own people and martyrs when they dishonestly, opportunistically or treacherously alleged that the only hope for democracy in Iraq is to keep it united and put forward this disgusting far-fetched argument that their own great model of democracy in Kurdistan! could be copied in Baghdad and the rest of Iraq. I translated a speech by Jalal Talabani last year in which he almost described the Kurds as savages wondering why Kurdish savages could establish this fantastic democracy in the north and not the civilised Baghdad and Arabs would be able to establish even a more fantastic democracy than his in the centre and south of Iraq!!

Instead of offering themselves as the saviours of Iraq! and champions of an illusionary Iraqi unity achieved at the expense of Kurdish blood and skulls, the Kurdish leaders should have been the first to join or even initiate the growing thrust of political opinion in the US that Iraq cannot be put back together as a unitary state and its division is inevitable to ensure peace and any opportunity for real democracy in the area. For Kurds anafl should have made it even degrading and dishonourable to describe Kurds as Iraqis.

Even now everyone turns a blind eye to these facts. The UN envoy closes his eyes and mind to the real clear divisions in Iraq which would make it impossible to have any Iraq-wide elections in foreseeable future or to transfer authority to any credible and able government.

So what is happening now?

Now everything is in a mess. I do not want to compare the situation to Vietnam though it has been ignorantly developed to a similar situation. Even the external dimension is there. From the first day there have been secret or overt interventions by Iran and Syria. Now the Iranian role is dangerously increasing through support to Muqtada al-Sadr militants. Even Turkey is supporting them through their alliance with the Turkoman Front. Money flows from Arab countries. Anti-American al Qaida and other Islamic fundamentalists with terrorist training and fighting experience have been attracted to Iraq and their passage has been facilitated by Syria and Iran. And Iraqi is still awash with oceans of arms and well-trained Saddam's Fedayeen, which did include thousands of Shias.

So is it Vietnam?

It is not Vietnam as people do not have real reason to fight Americans who have liberated them. But as liberation has not been realised because of sticking to the bloody one-Iraq project, everything has been turned into a bloody mess. People have been disillusioned. Terrorists have opportunity to recruit people for resistance and create mayhem even in previously peaceful cities and areas. If this situation continues, yes it will become partly Vietnam if the analogy is basically the continuation of bloodshed and both American and Iraqi deaths. But more dangerously it could become partly Palestine. A lethal mixture of the two. Punish everyone for the guilt of the few: that is what will happen when the only solution envisaged is a military one and when politicians reach a cul de sac because the solutions they envisaged through brainstorms and facilitated group exercises in Washington and London are barren and irrelevant in the context of post-Saddam Iraq. They were based on ignorance, fancy and prejudice.

So now there will be serial escalation of killings, counter-killings, of revenges and counter-revenges until important sections of Shi'a are radicalised, the model of West bank and Gaza is transplanted and the moderate Shia including the useless members of the Governing Council would become too embarrassed or scared to continue their support for the US. It looks like a scenario of doom and gloom. But I am afraid this is the direction of the events. It does not make a difference whether Mr Rumsfield describes the Shia and Sunni fighters as thugs or as guerrillas. The other serious consequence will be the collapse of the current international coalition which is already been turned from the "coalition of the willing" to "the coalition of the wavering."

So what is the solution? Can the US and Britain just cut and run?

No. Though this is not an impossible outcome but it will be a suicidal one for the US in particular. Iraq, as I have explained above, has attracted all anti-American terrorists. The axes of evil Iran and Syria are greatly involved. Both want to open another terrorist front against America to relieve the pressure they are under for stopping their intervention in Lebanon, support for Hamas and Hezbollah, stopping their attempt to obtain weapons of mass destruction and bringing about democratic reforms in their countries. However great the cost maybe, it will be suicidal for the US to cut and run. Iraq will actually become the centre of international Islamic terrorism and will destabilise the whole Gulf and Middle East region. Afghanistan and Pakistan will come under great pressure and will be next targets for defeating America. Even Turkey will be encouraged or obliged to upgrade its version of moderate Islam to a more radical anti-western one. Hamas and Hizbollah will be greatly strengthened and terrorist attacks in the West will multiply until first Israel is demolished and second Europe will accept all the demands of Islamists including universal hijab and semi-Islamic state!

So you suggest that America must send more forces?

No I say it is criminal to sacrifice so many American and Iraqi lives for political failure. This is not necessary if Iarq is allowed to be what it is and was: different nations. I say choose the only right, realistic and legitimate solution. Divide Iraq to democratise it. Don't centralise it to Vietnamize it.

Let Kurdistan, including Kirkuk and Mosul, keep its freedom and hold elections immediately before the waves of terror and destruction reach Kurdistan as a result of the criminal anti-democratic anti-Kurdisatni policies of the so-called Kurdish leaders who defy the will of Kurdistani people represented by the Referendum Movement which collected 1.7 million signatures for independence in just four weeks.

Let Kurdistan be independent and then it will be up to the iraqi Arabs, both Shi'a and Sunni, whether they want to be together in one or two states. We as Kurds do not want to be part of a state which has been enslaving, oppressing and eliminating us for 80 years. If so-called Kurdish leaders describe us as Iraqis they are insulting us and our martyrs. They are liars and traitors. It will be total destabilisation of Kurdiostan if it is forced to reintegrate into Aarb Iraq after 30 June 2004.

I hope both Mr Bush and Mr Tony Blair will seriously consider and agree this sole solution for the sake of the stability in the Middle East. Give a real model of democracy and freedom to the peoples of Great Middle East!

By Dr Rebwar Fatah:

The Kurdish resistance to Southern Kurdistan annexing with Iraq


Sheikh mahmud Barzanji:
In the steep hill of victory ahead of us, I expect unity from you and sacrifice from myself."

- Sheikh Mahmud Barzanji, the King of Kurdistan: from a speech on 18 November 1918 in the presence of the British administrator Major Noel arrived in Sulaimaniya

The Mandate Years saw the establishment of the first independent Kurdish 'government' led by Malik Sheikh Mahmoud Barzanji in the region of Sulaimaniya (aka Sulemani) in 1919. This progression was short-lived: Barzanji was eventually arrested and exiled to India; South Kurdistan was then forcibly annexed to Iraq. As the result, throughout its history Iraq has never enjoyed full territorial integrity. Parts of Kurdistan have always been controlled by the Kurds, albeit through de facto and self-imposed administrations, particularly since the start of the armed Kurdish National Movement in 1961, and after the first Gulf War in 1991.

Kurds learned the lesson of betrayal and, to this day, remain doubtful of the intentions of the West on the Kurdish issue. Now, as Iraq goes through a transitional stage in its history, and its government is overshadowed by the insurgents, the Kurdistan Regional Government is perhaps the only functional government in Iraq. Almost a hundred years since the start of the British Mandate, Kurds find themselves with yet another opportunity to break away from Iraq to form an independent nation. History has repeated itself. What should not be repeated, however, is a betrayal of the Kurds by US-British forces in the 21st century.

During World War I, the British occupied the Basra and Baghdad Willayets. Britain did not occupy the Willayet of Mosul or main regions of Southern Kurdistan. They did, however, send political officers to encourage the Kurds to rise up against the Ottoman Empire. Colonel Sir Arnold Wilson, the British Civil Commissioner in Iraq, declared that Britain's intention was the formation of a Kurdish independent state in Southern Kurdistan under the tutelage of the British. [1]

On the 1st November 1918, Wilson convened a meeting of Kurdish tribal leaders and the influential personalities. He appointed Sheikh Mahmud Barzanji as the governor of Suleimaniya on behalf of the British. All tribal leaders, except a section of the Jaff tribe and Babakir Selim Agha from Pizhdar tribe, accepted his leadership.[2] One month later, Bazanji presented Wilson with a document signed by 40 tribal chiefs demanding the granting of certain rights to the Kurdish people. However, concerned that the British were not serious about the formation of a Kurdish State but only gaining time, Sheikh Mahmoud bypassed them to announce the independence of Southern Kurdistan. He led the first Kurdish revolt in May 1919, pushing the British forces out of Suleimaniya, its surroundings, and the town of Halabja.

An army of 1,500 Kurds engaged in a fierce battle with British forces in the Baziyan region, near Sulaimaniya. "Shari Darbandi Baziyan" is a national pride in the Kurdish history. Unsurprisingly, Kurdish forces were defeated by the superior numbers and technology of the British force, and 'The great Sheikh was injured and arrested; he was then exiled to India.' [3] This treatment of a religious leader was seen as a great insult to the Muslim Kurds, and left a deep mistrust between Kurds and Britain for generations to come. A new policy was formed to safeguard Kurdish cultural rights within the boundaries of the Iraqi state. This policy was designed to win the support of the Kurds and to overcome some difficult situations. They were quickly forgotten. [4]

For example, on 18 November 1918, Major Noel arrived in Sulaimaniya. The day after his arrival he gave a public speech to the population of the province, including the tribal leaders, in the presence of Sheikh Mahmud Barzinji, stating in Farsi:

"I address you in the name of the British Government and the British Governor General. You have been freed from slavery. Now you are free and independent. Sheikh Mahmud Barzinji is the Governor of Kurdistan. I deliver you this news on behalf of the British Governor General in Baghdad." [5]

He lied.

The Kurds refused to become part of Iraq, boycotting the July 1921 referendum to choose Faisal as monarch of Iraq. Kurdish parliamentarians in Baghdad refused to attend Faisal's coronation ceremony in the August of that year.

In 1922 the brother of Mahmoud Barzanji, Sheikh Qadyir, gained Turkish support to attack British forces occupying the South Kurdish regions of Amedi (aka Amediye) and Koy Sanjaq (aka Koye). In October of that year, fearing that Kurdistan - particularly the Mosul Willayet - might fall into the hands of the Turks, the British reappointed Sheikh Mahmoud as the governor of Sulaimaniya. Upon his arrival, Barzanji declared the formation of a Kurdish state, with the town of Sulaimaniya as its capital city. He introduced a cabinet of eight ministers:

- Abdulkarim Alaka, Christian Kurd - Finance Minister
- Ahmed Bagy Fatah Bag - Customs Minister
- Hajy Mala Saeed Karkukli - Justice Minister
- Hema Abdullah Agha - Labour Minister
- Mustafa Pasha Yamolki- Education Minister
- Shaikh Qadir Hafeed - Prime Minister
- Shekh Mohammed Gharib - Interior Minister
- Zaky Sahibqran - Defence Minister of the Kurdish National Army

A month later, on 18 November 1922, he once again defied British rule, declaring himself the King of Kurdistan (Maliki Kurdistan).[6] The Kurdish newspaper "Roji Kurdistan" , referring to Kurdistan as separate to Iraq. [7]

Once again, the Kurds were suppressed by the British forces. A combined Royal Air Force (RAF) and British ground forced Malik to escape to Persia and disperse his army. [8] The 24 December 1922 Declaration gave little satisfaction to the province of Sulaimaniya, which had no desire to come under the authority of King Faisal of Iraq and sought to pursue the struggle for a free and united Kurdistan.

In 1924 after the British ground troops disappeared, Sheikh Mahmud returned again to start his struggle for a Kurdish state. The RAF bombed his personal headquarters in Suleimaniya. Once again Mahmud escaped. [9]

The British hoped that this would end Barzanji's struggle, however, once more in 1930 he led his forces through Persian borders in hoping to detach Southern Kurdistan from Iraq.

On the 26 March 1931 the Iraqi government formally asked the British high commissioner for air-action against those villages sheltering the rebel Kurdish army. Later, aerial reconnaissance located Sheikh Mahmoud. The RAF then conducted autonomous operations against his rebel force, with the Iraqi army supporting the operation by re-establishing government authority.

Subjected to continuous aerial attack and unable to re-supply his guerrillas, Barzanji retreated into Persia and surrendered on 13 May 1931.

Soon after this Sheikh Mahmud was captured and was taken into a prison in South Iraq. From this day South Iraqi became exile for Kurds. When the Baath Party came to power in 1968, South Iraq became a place of mass graves of Kurdish civilians. Iraqi political parties state, 'The Kurdish-Arabic partnership is rooted in history.' Perhaps it is more accurate to say it is rotten in history.

Referendum

Modern Iraq was born in the aftermath of World War I, as the great colonial powers dealt with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. It was carved out of three former Ottoman provinces -- a Kurdish-dominated region in the north and two Arab regions to the south. Artificial boundaries were drawn to suit the colonial masters' administrative needs, not the logic of the local terrain.

The British installed a monarchy under the Hashemite King Emir Faisal (1885-1933) at the Cairo Conference of 1921, "legitimizing" the appointment by presenting Iraqis with a dubious, one-question referendum that the new king won with a 96 percent favorable vote.

The Provinces of Mosul and Arbil (aka Hewler) voted in favour, and Kirkuk voted to delay its decision (later voting in favour of Faisal's Iraq in 1923). Interestingly, the Kurds asked for a separate Kurdish province but only on condition that they were not incorporated with the Kurds of Sulaimaniya. Only the population of the latter voted unconditionally against Faisal or any inclusion in Iraq.

In his official report to the Commission of the League of Nations' Mandated Territories, Sir Percy Cox noted that:[10]

"...the Kurds feared for their interests if Baghdad should hold the reins of industry and the economy in Iraq. They assumed they would be cheated. The Suleimaniya region decided not to participate in the election of the King of Iraq. In Kirkuk the Emir's candidacy was rejected and the Kurds demanded a Government of their own race . . . Suleimaniya was almost unanimous in rejecting outright any form of inclusion under Iraqi Government."

Arguably, the concept by which Iraq was created was a colonial carve up and the division of these Middle Eastern region, based on post-WWI colonial divisions, is out of date in light of the modern world's structure. The emergence of new nation-states has proven this.

Conclusions

The actions of the British Royal Air Force played an undoubtedly important role in the suppression of Sheikh Mahmoud's followers and in the future military history of the Iraqi regions. In the first occasion of the RAF being employed outside of the British Empire, the repeated bombardments by the RAF on Sulaimaniya and other rebel Kurdish towns not only caused civilian causalities but were, on some occasions, in violation of international military law. For instance, use of Delayed Action Bombs was in violation of The Hague Convention of 1907, and the British Manual of Military Law of 1914.

The single-question referendum to crown Prince Emir Faisal as King of Iraq, in 1922, took two years to complete. It is questionable as to whether this referendum asked the right question; for why ask whether to establish a former Saudi Prince, forced from Syria, as King of Iraq without first establishing whether or not a people - who had never seen Baghdad, and never taken part in a referendum and were struggling against the British to form their own state - in fact wished to be part of Iraq?

Britain was determined to annex South Kurdistan to the State of Iraq in order to balance between the Sunni and the Shiia populations, as most Kurds are Sunni Kurds. Discovery of oil in the Kurdish city of Kirkuk can also be seen as a determining factor in annexing South Kurdistan to Iraq.

Some experts assume that the Kurds did not establish their own state to development of Kurdish nationalism; however the ceaseless struggle during the defining of Iraq to establish an independent state could not have succeeded quickly against such larger and better equipped military forces as that of the British.

The Arab, Turkish and Persian nationalists fiercely defend the territorial integrity of Iraq as much as they fight the "Imperialist powers", discarding the original and flexible forging of Iraq's territory and its construction at the hands of "imperialist powers" in favour of fighting for their land. Yet, the Kurdish aspiration and struggle for their own nation-state was brutally oppressed by the established superpowers in the area, such as British Mandate.

This brief but rather important time in defining the Middle East is an important part of Kurdish history, but a nation such as the Kurds can only do so much in order to avoid oppression.

References

1. Lt-Col. Sir Arnold T. Wilson, Mesopotamia 1917-1920: A Clash of Loyalties, London, Oxford University Press, 1931, p.133.

2. Refiq Hilmi, Yadasht (Memories), Baghdad, Ma'arif Press.

3. Sa'id Badal, Taikhcheyeh Jonbishhayeh Meli Kurd [The History of Kurdish National Movements: From the 19th Century to the end of the World War II], The Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran's Publication, 1984, p.80.

4. By Saadulla Abdulla, British policy towards Kurdistan, KurdishMedia.com, 12 January 2003, http://www.kurdmedia.com/articles.asp?id=8852

5. Muhammad Rassul Hawar, Sheikh Mahmud and the Southern Kurdistan Government - in Kurdish, first volum, Jaff Press, London, 1990, page, 416

6. Dr Hussein Tahiri, KurdishMedia.com, Kirkuk: History should end controversy, 05 July 2002

7. Saadulla Abdulla, British policy towards Kurdistan, KurdishMedia.com, 12 January 2003, http://www.kurdmedia.com/articles.asp?id=8852

8. Robert Jackson, RAF in Action, (Dorset: Blandford Press, 1985), 20.

9. Air Staff Memorandum No. 16, 1924, Sir John Salmond Correspondence File in AIR/338.

10. I. S. Vanly, I.S., Kurdistan in Iraq, (ed. G. Chaliand), written in the second half of the seventies

Chronology of Events: 1918-1932: The British Mandate Years in Iraq

1534 - Mesopotamia is seized by the Ottoman Empire with brief interruptions in rule by Persia and the Egyptian Mamelukes.

1908 - The first attempts are made to organise a national Kurdish Movement.

1908 - In Constantinople, the Young Turks revolt against Ottoman rule. The Law of Equality was passed between all nations of the Ottoman Empire. The persecution of minority and non-Turkish groups was renewed in 1909

1910 - The Hiwa Society (Hiwa meaning 'hope') is founded in South Kurdistan as the Kurdish political association.

1914-1918 - World War I

1914 - War is declared on the Ottoman Empire by Britain on the 11th May. In December, Britain begins its invasion and occupation of Mesopotamia.

1916 - The secret Sykes-Picot Agreement is made on May 16th, anticipating the Ottoman Empire's partition between French and British rule. Despite agreement that the Willayets of Basra and Baghdad would be under British influence, and Mosul and Syria under French, Britain eventually took control of Mosul, Basra and Baghdad after fighting.

1918-1932 - The British Mandate Years in Iraq

1918 - On 3rd October, the leader of the Arab revolt against the Turks, the son of Sharif Husain of Hijazm and Faisal's Bedouin army enter Damascus, symbolically ending the Ottoman rule over the Arabs. After Ottoman defeat on the 30th October, the Truce of Modrus with Turkey is signed. On the 8th November, France and Britain issued a declaration outlining their joint aim to liberate those oppressed by the Ottomans, and to establish national governments authorised by a free choice of the indigenous populations. This declaration was followed on 1st December by Sheikh Mahmud presenting Sir Arnold Wilson with a document demanding certain rights to Kurds, signed by 40 tribal chiefs.
1919 - This year saw the beginning of a continuous struggle to create an Independent Kurdish State. The state of Iraq was formed by Britain on the 10th January of this year, combining the Willayets of Baghdad, Basra and Mosul. On the 23rd May, Sheikh Mahmud Berzenji led a series of revolts against the British in Sulaimaniya, in resistance of the annexing of South Kurdistan to Iraq. Winston Churchill in 1919, acting as the Secretary of State at the War Office, was in favour of finding military means of quickly terminating any action seen as disorder, prevailing among what he called 'uncivilised tribes' and 'recalcitrant Arabs,' i.e. Kurds and Afghans.

1920 - The Conference of San Rimo, on the 19-26 April, resolved to put into application all signed agreements between the Allied Countries, dividing the Near East into protectorate regions. Kurdish citizens boycotted the Iraqi referendum to approve the accession of Prince Faisal I to the throne. British Mandate over Iraq was approved by the League of Nations on 25th May, followed on the 2nd June by a widespread tribal uprising against the British militia in Iraq. French Mandate over Syria begins on the 24th July, their forces ousting Faisal and beginning occupation of Damascus. The Treaty of Sevres is signed on the 10th August, envisioning the creation of an Independent Kurdistan.

1921 - Emir Faisal bin Husayin - Sharif of Mecca - is made King of Iraq by the British High Commissioner, Sir Percy Cox, on the 27th August, to much disquiet in the Kurdish communities, particularly in the province of Mosul, following a faked referendum boycotted by the Kurds. Three Kurdish regions of Jezireh, Kurd-dagh and Arab-pinar are integrated within the Syrian state under Turkish-French Agreement on the 20th November.

1922 - On the 10th October the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty is signed, setting out the scope of Britain's involvement in Iraqi affairs and recognising the rights of Kurds to create their own government within the Iraqi State. Revolt of the Barzani Kurds after the end of the British Mandate is put off by the RAF.

1923 - The first Turkish Parliament, including 72 Kurdish deputies, is dissolved on the 3rd March, followed by spread of Turkish law forbidding the use Kurdish language to be used in schools, publications or other public forums. The Treaty of Lausanne replaces the Treaty of Sevres, ending the Allies' war against Turkey. This treaty, signed on the 24th July, leaves the Kurdish Question and the state of the Wilayet of Mosul in an unresolved capacity. Turkey declares itself a Republic of Turkey on the 29th October.

1924 - On the 10th July, Kurds in Hakari revolted, suppressed by Turkish military after 79 days of revolt. Nevertheless, in that time, 48 villages were destroyed. In December, a statement by the British High Commissioner recognised the right of Kurds to a Kurdish government.

1925 - Following revolts in North Kurdistan, the area is considered a military zone until 1965, which no foreigner is permitted to visit. The Revolt of Sheikh Said of Piran starts on the 14th February, rebels declared the city of Daranhini the capital of Kurdistan. On the 26th February, Kharpout became occupied by the rebels, disarming the military camp there. Within a month, vast regions of North Kurdistan became occupied, seizing the city of Diyarbekir (Amed). The revolution continued until October 1927.

On the 16th July the League of Nations suggested that Kurds form their own nation state, on ethnic grounds as they are neither Turks nor Arabs. However, despite making up five-eighths of the population, Kurdish Mosul was, on the 16th October, officially integrated into Iraq against the will of its Kurdish population.

1926 - The Revolt of Mount Agri begins on 16th May, where rebels disarmed and imprisoned the soldiers of the 28th Turkish Infantry division. This revolt spread to Hakkari, Siirt and Mardin, not suppressed until the 17th July 1926.

1927 - Under the leadership of Sheikh Enwer, a great Kurdish revolution began in Diyarbekir (Amed) and Agri on the 30th May. 2000 Kurdish fighters were killed in the final battles to suppress the rebellion, finally ending on the 7th October. Oil was discovered near Kurdish city of Kirkuk. The Kurdish National Committee was created in Iraq after the Mahmud Kurdish struggle. On the 14th December, a British treaty was signed declaring Iraq an independent country, but Britain did not relinquish three air bases.

1928 - Following the leadership of Resul Agha, a Kurdish uprising took place in Siirt. A second rebellion occurred under Ali Can.

1930 - Sheikh Ahmad and Sheikh Latif led a Kurdish revolt which lasted until October 1945 in North Kurdistan. In the region of Mount Ararat, Khoyboun led the organisation of a revolutionary movement. From 2nd June to 18th September, there was a Kurdish uprising in the Agri region. Throughout September Turkey takes a Nazist line towards the Kurdish citizens within the republic. Turkish newspaper Milliet publishes several articles and declarations - including from the Turkish Minister for Justice and the Premier Ismet Inonu - outlining anti-minority views, including that only the Turkish have rights to national claims of their country, and that other ethnic groups have only the right to serve. On the 16th November, a new Anglo-Iraqi treaty is ratified.

1931 - The revolt of Jaafer Sultan occurs in Iran in the Autumn.

1932 -In April, Turkish government passes a law expelling hundreds of thousands of Kurds from Northern Kurdistan into the central and western areas of Turkey. Iraq gains formal independence from Britain on 3rd October, though uncertainties about southern borders lead to frequent skirmishes between Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Kuwait.

Thanks to Michelle Johnson and Chris Lacey.

By Dr Hussein Tahiri:

There is no military solution to the Kurdish question

The Kurdish question has gained momentum, both in regional and international arenas. Therefore, it begs the question for how long the states ruling over Kurdistan will continue to deny the Kurdish rights.

Over a century of suppression and attempts at elimination of the Kurds, both physically and culturally, it has been proven that there is no military solution to the Kurdish question. If a military solution was a viable option, by now, the Kurds in Northern Kurdistan (Turkey) who demanded Kurdish cultural and political rights would be eliminated and other Kurds would have been Turkified. A similar scenario would have happened to the Kurds in Eastern Kurdistan (Iran). The Kurds in South Kurdistan (Iraq) would have been physically eliminated by successive Iraqi governments and the Kurds in Western Kurdistan (Syria) would have been Arabised.

However, as we have seen the opposite is true in all parts of Kurdistan. The Kurdish demands for cultural and political rights in North, East and West Kurdistan have grown stronger than ever and in the South the Kurds have been able to impose a Kurdish federal government on the new Iraqi government. The Kurdish self-consciousness has reached an unprecedented level in Kurdish history and there is no return to previous state of affairs. Thus, the only way forward is to try to find a political solution to the Kurdish question in all parts of Kurdistan.

Unfortunately, successive rulers of Kurdistan cannot understand this fact and they insist on a military solution to the Kurdish question. For the last several years the suppression of the Kurds in the West (Syria) has increased. More recently, the Turkish military used force to suppress Kurdish demonstrators which resulted in the killing of 16, several of whom were children under ten years old. The Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan who leads a doctrine of 'Kemalist Islamism' does not seem to see any other solution to the Kurdish question other than military force. During the Kurdish demonstrations in Diyarbekir and other Kurdish towns to legitimise their suppression, he called the demonstrators 'the pawns of terrorism' and said if necessary they would shoot at women and children. It seems that the rulers of Kurdistan are determined to solve the Kurdish issue through military means which has thus far proven unsuccessful. Is there any way out of this vicious circle?

Turkish, Persian and Arab intellectuals have a duty in trying to promote a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question as an alternative to military force; a duty that they have failed to fulfil so far. This duty falls on them not only as a responsibility that they have towards the Kurds as a nation who need to fulfil their national aspirations but as intellectuals who are responsible for the future of their own people.

Since Kurdistan was subdivided among Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, the Kurds in different parts of Kurdistan have been subject to suppression and they have been deprived of their basic human rights. Kurdish demands for cultural and political rights have been met with oppression, persecution and genocide. Suppression of the Kurds has increased the human rights abuses in Kurdistan by the ruling states. Thousands of Kurds have been detained and imprisoned each year. Historically, all parts of Kurdistan have been treated as military camps. Kurds have been tortured, imprisoned, raped and executed by the military apparatus of the ruling states.

Alongside the Kurds even non-Kurdish population such as Turks, Persians and Arabs have suffered. In response to the Kurdish question the military organs of the states ruling over Kurdistan were empowered and given unlimited authority. These organs have become intolerant of any dissidents within these countries. They have suppressed their own people to maintain their grip on power and opposed democratisation of their societies. In this process, not only Kurds have suffered human rights abuses but the dominant nations in these countries as well.

Furthermore, the states ruling over Kurdistan have spent billions of dollars each year buying weapons to suppress the Kurds. Fighting between the ruling governments and Kurdish forces has cost thousands of lives on both sides. Alternatively, these governments could invest their financial and human resources to build and advance their own country rather than the suppression of the Kurds. These are issues that the Turkish, Persian and Arab intellectuals have failed to understand. A peaceful solution to the Kurdish question is not only to do with the Kurds but it is essential for progress, development and prosperity of the dominant nations.

In searching to find a solution to the Kurdish question one could talk about political boundaries, geography, geopolitics, geostrategic issues and many other 'geos' but in reality the Kurdish question is not as complex as some people try to portray. It is simply the question of a nation of over 40 million people with their own distinct history, language, and culture who have been suppressed for decades. As we enter the 21st century, ruling states continue to deny the Kurds their basic human rights. They still deny that a Kurdish nation with its own distinct identity exists, and do not consider granting the people any of their legitimate rights.

Therefore, decades of suppression, persecution, genocide and destruction of Kurdistan and denial of Kurdish identity have taught the Kurds that they can no longer live under suppression. They need to determine their own future so they can nurture their culture and plan their own future, free from persecution. Self-determination is the legitimate right of the Kurdish nation. Sooner or later there will be an independent Kurdish state.

The Kurdish nation has suffered for decades and deserves to live in peace and security. Kurds should be able to determine their social, political, economic and cultural rights. These rights have been recognized by the United Nations. Article 1:1 of the UN International Human Rights Covenants states, "All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development."

Why should there be more bloodshed? The states ruling over Kurdistan have to accept that a united independent Kurdistan is an inevitable fact. They should work with the Kurds to find a peaceful solution to the issue. Above all, having friendly neighbours are in their interests.

It also falls upon the Kurds (in fact it is long overdue) to form a coordinating body to promote understanding among various Kurdish political parties and organisations: a body that will promote social, political, economic and cultural development of Kurdish society; a body that would represent national aspirations of the Kurds and act as a voice for the Kurds in all parts of Kurdistan. Only then can the Kurds have a strong political voice to promote their cause on regional and international levels and push for a political and democratic solution to the Kurdish question.

Scot Alex:

Breaking up Iraq - Divide and heal

Despite the imminent formation of a government of national unity, Iraq is splintering into its three historic provinces. The break-up can be managed, but it cannot be avoided. The western powers and Iraqi nationalists must now accept that radical federalism is the only alternative to civil war.

Sometime in the next few days or weeks, a government of national unity will finally be formed in Iraq. This rare piece of good news will briefly rekindle some of the optimism about the political future of a unified Iraq that followed last December's election. But the reality on the ground is that Iraq is breaking up. The Kurdish north is largely independent and Basra, capital of the Shia south, is increasingly falling out of Baghdad's orbit. Moreover, there is anecdotal evidence of significant population movement--with Shias leaving Sunni areas, Sunnis leaving Shia areas, and Kurds (and many professionals of all identities) moving north to the relative sanctuary of Kurdistan.

The partitioning, or rather radical decentralisation, of Iraq is under way. This should not necessarily be seen as a problem. Historical Iraq was a place of three semi-independent parts--Kurdish north, Sunni centre and Shia south--within the loose framework of the Ottoman empire. It is the centralised Iraq--starting with Britain's creation of the modern state in 1921-23 and reaching its nadir in nearly three decades of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship--that has failed and should be allowed to die.

There are, however, powerful forces refusing to contemplate partition or "hard federalism." The radical Shia movement led by Muqtada al-Sadr, emerging as one of the most powerful groups in Iraq, rejects federalism as a divide-and-rule tactic and defends Iraqi identity in traditional nationalist terms. Opposition among the Arab Sunnis who have traditionally dominated the state is even stronger. Whether radical Islamists, ex-Ba'athists or secularists, Arab Sunnis see federalism as undermining everything they have stood for in nearly a century of Iraqi history.

The coalition--especially the British--is also opposed to further decentralisation. On his recent visit to Baghdad Jack Straw refused to discuss with Kurdish officials the distribution of power between regions and the centre--and the British insist on talking about Kurdish areas rather than a distinct Kurdistan region of Iraq. US officials too are committed to the status quo, but a debate is starting in Washington about how to respond to the new realities. Peter Galbraith, former US ambassador to Croatia, recently said that "a break-up has already taken place," and hoped that the constitution's federal provisions would be effective enough to avoid a "Bosnia-type" war.

Even if an Iraq dominated by its regions does come to be seen as part of the solution rather than the problem, there are many obstacles in its path. Turkey is nervous about an even more independent Kurdish north, and Iran might come to dominate the Shia south. Partition would also change the geopolitical balance of the middle east in unpredictable ways and would be seen in many parts of the world as an egregiously colonial parting act: what imperialists can assemble they can also disassemble. Inside Iraq there is the question of whether extensive population movement would be necessary--especially in flashpoints like Kirkuk and Baghdad itself. There is also the question of whether the two areas that have oil--the Kurdish north and the Shia south--would distribute any proceeds to the Sunni centre. And would there still be a place for a national army in a semi-partitioned Iraq? If so, what authority would it be answerable to? If not, would that increase the possibility of conflict between the three new entities?

Before considering how the logic of radical decentralisation arises from Iraq's own history, and examining various scenarios for the country's constitutional future, an illusion must be dispelled: the idea that Iraq already has a functioning federal constitution. Iraq has great democratic achievements under its belt since 2003, but the truth is that there is no agreement in the constitution over the powers of the regions, the distribution of oil revenues, the deployment of military forces, the control of borders or the role of Islam, to name a few issues. Some optimists argue that the delay in the formation of a new government is evidence that Iraqis are forging a deal on these matters to last for generations. There is, alas, little evidence for this. It would be truer to say that the different ethnopolitical groupings are stockpiling arms and building alliances, in case they have to fight for their interests.

Iraq as a powerful central state has already been shattered. Whether as a result of Saddam's attacks on the rebelling Kurds and Shias after the first Gulf war, the quasi-independence of the north since 1991, the rise of political Shi'ism in the south, or the mistakes of the coalition since the 2003 invasion and its almost-total dependence on ethnic and religiously based groups to govern the country--there can be no going back. Kurdistan is already operating as if it were an independent country in all but name. The Kurdistan regional government (KRG) recently concluded deals with DNO, a Norwegian oil company, to investigate oil reserves near Dohuk, with the implication that the KRG, rather than the Iraqi government, would legally own any resources. There is also an attempt to break linguistically with Iraq--English is now being promoted as the second language in Kurdish schools and colleges, replacing Arabic. But more striking, perhaps, are the murmurings of secession in the south. Some leading Shias have begun to consider Basra as the capital of a southern region that would include Iraq's southern oilfields. One of the most prominent is Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the pro-Iranian Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq party (SCIRI). His views put him sharply at odds with his fellow Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr who has an Iraqi nationalist's deep suspicion of Iran.

The british invented Iraq as a modern state in the 1920s, but it had long existed as a decentralised federal entity within the Ottoman empire, known in Europe by its historic name Mesopotamia (and locally as al-Iraq). The three Ottoman provinces of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra developed in distinct but connected ways. Life in these provinces was focused upon their major towns (of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra) and each of them existed within separate geo-economic spheres. Mosul was linked with Anatolia, Baghdad looked west to Arab lands, and Basra had a "Gulf-centric" identity with connections to India. The past three years have seen the re-emergence of these regional identities: Kurdistan is the old Mosul province, the old Baghdad and Basra provinces are now nicknamed "Sunnistan" and "Shiastan" respectively.

In the aftermath of the first world war, the imposition in Iraq of a European-style centralised state clashed with local habits, as elsewhere in the former Ottoman empire. The empire is often seen as having fostered cosmopolitan, multi-ethnic societies. This is true, in the main, although Sunni-Shia tensions certainly existed in the old Iraq and Kurds remained isolated in their mountains. But the sociopolitical conditions that underlay the foundation of most European nation states could not be found in Ottoman Iraq--there was no dominant nation that came together to form a state. Meanwhile, the structure that the British imposed--a constitutional monarchy in their own image, based on strong control from the capital and negligible power to the provinces--was a radical change from a system that had worked well under the Ottomans. The idea that the British created Iraq is widely repeated, but inaccurate. They did, however, reinvent its internal structure.

The logic behind Iraq's new centralised structure made sense only from the perspective of the British. Chairing the Cairo conference in March 1921, Winston Churchill headed a "who's who" gathering including TE Lawrence, Percy Cox, Gertrude Bell and the Emir Faisal, son of the Sharif of Mecca and leader of the Arab revolt against the Turks. Churchill's main concern was to secure Mesopotamia from any threat from Turkey or Russia. For Bell, Cox and Lawrence, the objective was to ensure the accession of Faisal, their wartime ally. These priorities helped to implant the two main pathologies of the modern Iraqi state. The Cairo conference saw to it that the non-Arab Mosul province (Kurdistan) remained within the newly named and centralised state of Iraq because of its oil, because its inhabitants were Sunnis (from the British perspective, more trustworthy than Shias), and because its mountainous terrain provided the new state with natural defences. The conference also nominated Faisal as king, thus ensuring that Sunni Arabs continued to dominate the predominately Shia population, as they had in Ottoman times. Iraq was therefore constructed with a non-Arab minority, the Kurds, who objected to their inclusion in Iraq and to the failure to grant them their own state, and a majority Shia population that remained unimpressed with their Arab Sunni monarch and his British backers.

It was this dominance of the institutions of the state by one group that allowed the Ba'athist junta of 1968 and then Saddam Hussein to turn Iraq from an authoritarian state into a totalitarian one. Under Saddam, differences between and within communities were exploited as a means to divide and rule. Saddam's Arab Sunni clique committed acts of sectarian and ethnic aggression against the Shias and the Kurds, and inevitably inflamed the country's enduring sectarian and ethnic identities, as was seen in the aftermath of Saddam's defeat in the first Gulf war in 1991. With the government seemingly on the verge of collapse, a regional rebellion broke out in the Shia south and a Kurdish one followed in the north. Although both rebellions were quashed by Saddam's Republican Guard, the blueprint for the current surge of political Shiism and Kurdish nationalism had been written. The violence and the centrifugal forces we are witnessing in today's Iraq are the reckoning for the 30 years of war that the Sunni-dominated regime waged against the Shias and the Kurds.

Because modern Iraq was the creation of British imperialism, it has become a cliché to describe it as an "artificial state." But one should recall that under the Ottomans the three parts of Iraq had a long association. Moreover, all states are to some extent artificial constructs and nearly a century of existence has endowed Arab Iraq with some sense of national identity. Outside of Kurdistan, Iraqis today are almost unanimously loyal to such symbols of nationalism as their flag and their rather successful football team. Many historians claim that a regional identity existed before the state was formed, and that Iraqi nationalism grew and prospered during the 20th century--at least in the Arab communities, among whom anti-Iranian feeling also acted as a glue, especially during and after the Iran-Iraq war. For promoters of this secular vision of Iraqi nationalism, there has never been a sectarian problem in Iraq between Sunnis and Shias, and the ethnic problem with Kurds was the result of imperial meddling.

This appealing vision appears to have coloured the view of the US administration as it geared up to remove Saddam; it seemed genuinely to believe that an overriding sense of Iraqi unity would emerge following the dictator's demise. Perhaps a primary error made by both the US government and many western academics in the run-up to the war was the implicit belief that most people in the world are post-ethnic individualists, like Americans believe themselves to be. The continuing hold of ethnic and sectarian allegiances was underestimated. (Within academic circles, the focus upon ethnicity as a politically mobilising force has become unfashionable, often attracting the accusation of Orientalism or essentialism.) But the vision of a unified, secular Iraq existed mainly among the middle classes. Cosmopolitan Iraq could indeed be found in the urban spaces of Baghdad and other major cities, but beyond these narrow confines Iraqi identities remained conditioned by local colourings of ethnicity and confessional background.

The evidence for this emerged after Saddam's removal in 2003. Sectarian-inspired violence spread quickly, while the Kurds consolidated their autonomy. The exponents of the "one Iraq" thesis blamed coalition mismanagement for these developments. The occupiers may not have helped, but the reason for the drumbeat of civil war could be found in the particularist way that Iraqis began to identify themselves in the absence of a strong centre.

Federalist thinking in modern Iraq was pioneered by the Kurds. By the end of the 1990s, the freedom and independence of the Kurdish north meant that they could impose their federal agenda on most of the Iraqi opposition movements. But the fall of Saddam ushered in a wider debate about different federal models, in which Shia notions of administrative federalism clashed with the more ethnic definition of the Kurds.

Which of the many possible federal models does the Iraqi constitution mandate? The imprecise nature of the document--adopted by referendum in October 2005--makes it hard to say. It describes Iraq as being democratic, federal and representative. But it is difficult to pin down exactly how these ideals will be achieved. Kurdistan was "approbated" in the constitution and recognised as existing within the boundaries of the 1991 entity--which did not include any of the disputed territories, including Kirkuk. In addition, provision is made in section 5 of the constitution for new regions to establish themselves. The regional governments are held responsible for all domestic affairs that lie outside those assigned to the federal government, including the organisation of internal security forces, and regional guards (known as militias, or peshmerga in Kurdistan). The ownership of oil and gas reserves is vague, but the emphasis of article 109 upon the federal government's management of oil and gas from "current fields" has encouraged both the Kurds and Shias to believe that new fields would be the property of the region rather than the centre. Furthermore, the fact that article 117 places regional law above federal law (at least for those matters not designated as exclusively federal) again emphasises the extent of possible decentralisation. However, all of these federal provisions remain in question, and the constitution is flanked by several supplementary deals, such as the famous "Kurd veto," which remain shrouded in mystery and ambiguity.

If, however, those favouring a stronger national centre--above all Muqtada's Shias and the Sunnis--were to prevail in the constitutional debate, an attempt could be made to rein in the most independent regions--by disbanding their regional guards, for example. Such a development would antagonise the Kurds and the SCIRI-supporting Shias in the south and could encourage them to take matters into their own hands. The Kurds suspect that the current prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, does want to pursue a recentralisation strategy, with the support of Muqtada al-Sadr and the Arab Sunnis. But in its present state, the Iraqi army could not occupy Kurdistan --many of its most effective units are actually taken from the Kurdish peshmerga. Similarly, the well-organised and well-funded Iranian-backed Badr army of SCIRI is itching for an excuse to attack the more Iraqi nationalist forces of Muqtada al-Sadr and settle scores with other Shia militias. Even if al-Jaafari remains prime minister, it is unlikely that the Iraqi government will risk antagonising the two most powerful military forces in the country.

At the other end of the federal spectrum, and a novelty for the middle east, is the idea of Iraq as a confederal state with a weak central authority. Rather than Baghdad being the undisputed centre of what is seen by many Arab Sunnis as the heart of Arab nationalism, it would be the reduced administrative centre of a state in which the regions, and primarily Kurdistan and Shiastan, would be the real powers. Under these circumstances, no Iraqi military forces could be based in Kurdistan without consent from the Kurdistan national assembly; the boundaries with Turkey and Iran would be policed by Kurds answering to Erbil rather than Baghdad, and Kurdistan's new oil resources would be controlled by the KRG. (Whether Kurdistan's existing oil reserves would remain under the control of a weakened Baghdad would remain to be seen.)

A similar pattern could develop in the south, with SCIRI probably becoming the leading political force and its military wing, the Badr army, becoming regional guard. Control over the oilfields of the south would be a source of dispute between Baghdad and Basra, but it is unlikely that force could be exerted on such a strong region, with a committed political leadership and capable military, from a weakened centre.

Political leaders in both the north and the south realise that they must tread carefully to reach their decentralising goals, and they also realise that there are some advantages to a residual central Iraqi state--a large single market, more clout on the international stage and so on. Nonetheless, the radical decentralisation scenario is the more likely of the two, if only because one of the confederal entities, Kurdistan, already exists. The momentum behind the formation of a Shia entity in the south remains strong, although it may, at least temporarily, have been slowed by falling electoral support for the pro-Iranian, pro-decentralisation SCIRI party. SCIRI is thought to have won around 20 per cent of the votes in the December election for the main Shia coalition, the United Iraqi Aliance, considerably less than the 35 per cent for the parties backing Muqtada al-Sadr. SCIRI, however, remains a force, and it still controls nine out of 11 councils in the south. This pattern of support and influence helps to explain why SCIRI is keen to build up power at the regional level while Muqtada is happy to consolidate the centre.

The push for a strong federalism, as with attempts at recentralisation, could trigger serious conflict. The stand-off over the premiership of Ibrahim al-Jaafari suggests that this is a real possibility. If the Kurds and SCIRI succeed in ousting him from power as a first step towards a looser Iraq, this could galvanise those opposed to federalism into an Arab nationalist bloc willing to take up arms in order to prevent what would be perceived as an existential threat to Iraq. In this eventuality, different Shia militias would turn on each other, particularly in Basra and Baghdad, with Arab Sunni insurgents also heavily involved.

The Kurdish parties, meanwhile, would seize the opportunity to secure their hold on Kirkuk, where they would face a challenge from Shia Turkmen and Arab Shia followers of Muqtada al-Sadr. And if the Kurdish leaders were to go as far as claiming all the disputed territories--a broad arc that runs from Syria to the Iranian border, including Sinjar, Makhmour, parts of Mosul, Tuz, Kirkuk, Khanaquin and Mandali--then serious fighting would break out between local communities and Kurdish liberators/ occupiers. Many of these areas contain significant non-Kurdish populations, who, especially in the area of Mosul, would react violently towards any threat to Iraq's integrity. A similar pattern could be expected in the south of the country, except that there would also be a strong possibility of internal Shia conflict in addition to conflict between Sunnis and Shias.

History may suggest that a loose confederation of three semi-autonomous statelets is the best long-term solution for Iraq. If the three main groups cannot even agree on a mild form of federalism then the status quo will not hold for long. But if they cannot agree on a modest federalism they are unlikely to agree on a more radical untangling and, as we have seen, recentralisation is also not a realistic option. The best hope for a resolution is to convince some of the main opponents of a looser federation, in particular Muqtada al-Sadr, that it is in their interests. This is not impossible in the case of Muqtada. He has said that he is not against federalism in principle, but as an Iraqi nationalist he is suspicious of too much Iranian influence in the south. If, however, Muqtada's party started to eclipse SCIRI in the south, his interest in federalism might increase.

But even if the coalition and a big figure like Muqtada are converted to federalism, there are still some large obstacles to overcome. Opponents of decentralisation often point out that nearly all of Iraq's urban centres have heterogeneous populations. Hard federalism could speed up the ethnic-sectarian population movement that is already under way, creating flashpoints where populations are most mixed, including in Kirkuk, Mosul and Baghdad, in addition to the scores of smaller towns and settlements across the centre of the country. Since the fall of Saddam, Baghdad's dominant Sunni identity has been increasingly challenged by the Shias of Sadr City. And a similar potential confrontation awaits in Kirkuk. Should Baghdad and Kirkuk be given some sort of special status within a federal structure? It is an attractive idea but will not be popular with the dominant groups in those cities.

The oil issue, by comparison, looks less serious. Some Kurdish and Shia politicians view federalism as a means to seize control of their local oilfields and make up for the decades during which the Sunnis benefited disproportionately from the oil revenues. However, looking around the world it is unusual for regions to hang on to oil revenues when they are part of states, even decentralised ones. The compromise that seems to be emerging is that revenues from old oil will remain nationally distributed, but revenues from new oil will stay in the region where it is found.

Another consideration is the reaction of Iraq's neighbours. The main concern of Turkey, Iran and the Arab states is instability in Iraq. If they are persuaded that radical federalism will reduce violence and disorder then they will be less hostile. For Iran, the loosening of Iraq has much to be said for it. It not only removes a threat to Iran's western border, but also presents an opportunity for Iran to reassert its influence in the spiritual centre of Shi'ism--much to the irritation of the US. It is not just in Shiastan that one would expect to see strong Iranian influence. Already in Kurdistan, Iranian companies are investing heavily along the border, especially in Suleimaniyah, and the ethnically-based link between Kurds and Persians is openly spoken about in both places with pride.

Turkey is, of course, hostile to any independence for the Kurdistan region. However, Turkish companies have already invested $1bn there and its military and intelligence services work closely with those of the Kurdistan Democratic party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. And given Turkey's desire to secure EU membership, it will be hard for it to oppose a people demanding self-determination. Turkey's opposition to Kurdistan will not be enough on its own to stop it.

The belief that Saddam's regime was the glue that held together the fragmented mosaic of Iraq has proved to be true. It is now too late to resurrect a strong centre. New political forces have emerged with strong localised support and the ability to project power far more effectively than the nascent institutions of the new Iraqi state. These forces also have very different ideas as to how Iraq should be constructed and what it will mean to be an Iraqi in the future. For the Kurds, the problem is the legitimacy of the state itself. For the Shia, it is the nature of the state. In an ideal world, the Kurds would secede, with or without Kirkuk, and even without oil if it meant establishing their own state. Kurdish politicians are caught between satisfying a realist position in Baghdad and representing an increasingly noisy secessionist voice in the north. This Kurdish disenchantment with Iraq has not gone unnoticed among the two main Arab groups and it is increasingly common to hear the refrain, "let them leave if they wish to, but not with Kirkuk." Until an Arab-dominated Iraqi army is in a position to attempt to bring the Kurds back into Iraq, there will be little fighting in the north. For that reason, a Quebec-like asymmetrical decentralisation--in which the Kurdish region opts out of the Arab Iraqi state for most purposes--is likely to be officially recognised at some point soon.

The nature of the dispute between Sunnis and Shias is much more complex, as it is about who controls the narrative of the Iraqi state--what it means to be an Iraqi. For most of the 20th century, the narrative was one of Arab Sunni nationalism. Now, the Shia are struggling to win it back. The real struggle is in Baghdad and it is imbued with the symbolism of ancient religious disputes from the formative years of Islam itself. The struggle is further complicated by the fact that whereas Shiastan has resources, a relatively homogeneous population and a political leadership with some legitimacy, none of this can be said of Sunnistan--the most unstable part of Iraq.

The re-emergence of ethno-sectarian identities in Iraq should not have taken policymakers or academics by surprise. The Soviet collapse, for example, led to the intensification of ethnic conflict in several successor states, including Georgia, Moldova and Azerbaijan, and changes in the ethnic balance of power in Yugoslavia quickly heralded that state's demise. Iraq is mirroring this pattern closely.

America and Britain still have some influence over events. We need to consider the most realistic and appropriate options still available. The return to a looser form of the Iraq state is a difficult process that requires careful management. If it can be achieved with little bloodshed and disruption, it will be a great prize. The alternative seems to be break-up by a long, low-level civil war--which would be a stain on the western conscience for decades to come.

Gareth Stansfield is reader in middle east politics at the University of Exeter and associate fellow of the middle east programme at Chatham House

By Patrick Cockburn:

Kurdistan: Birth of a Nation?

Violence and suffering disfigure Iraq on a daily basis. But not everywhere is blighted. The Kurdish region is largely peaceful, and cities are beginning to thrive. So after decades of bloodshed, could its people's goal of self-determination finally be realised? Patrick Cockburn reports on an unexpected consequence of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein

In northern Iraq, stretching in a crescent from Iran to Syria, is one the strangest states to emerge in the world over the past half century. In theory, Iraqi Kurdistan is not independent but it is more powerful than most members of the United Nations. It has an efficient army. It remains part of Iraq but Baghdad has little influence on its actions. An old saying in the region claimed bitterly that "the Kurds have no friends but the mountains". But today its leaders make and break Iraqi governments. Once the White House and Downing Street ignored their existence, but now they are received with acclaim as important allies by George Bush and Tony Blair.

The struggle of the Iraqi Kurds for self-determination has been longer and bloodier than that of any nationalist movement outside Vietnam. It began under the British in the 1920s when "Bomber" Harris, later the commander of the air offensive against Germany, practised his art against Kurdish villages. Setting the tone for Baghdad's treatment of the Kurds over the rest of the century, he wrote with approval in 1924: "They now know that within 45 minutes, a full-size village can be practically wiped and a third of its inhabitants killed or injured."

Saddam Hussein proved an apt pupil. He imprisoned or forced hundreds of thousands of Kurds to flee when their independence movement collapsed in 1975 after being treacherously abandoned by the Shah of Iran and the US. Repression of the four or five million Iraqi Kurds reached a peak of cruelty and violence in the late 1980s: Saddam Hussein's forces slaughtered 182,000 of them and destroyed 3,800 of their villages as he crushed another uprising during the Iran-Iraq war.

To this day a frequent sight in the Kurdish countryside are the sinister mounds of earth covering the remains of towns and villages whose inhabitants were deported or killed. What Saddam Hussein did in Kurdistan was not total extermination, like Hitler against the Jews, but the scale of butchery and destruction came close to that inflicted by the Nazis in Russia and Poland.

At first glance, all this has changed. The Iraqi Kurds were the somewhat accidental beneficiaries of George Bush's determination to overthrow Saddam Hussein in 2003. This could have been a disaster for them. They had enjoyed quasi-independence under American air protection after the failed uprising of 1991. Then, to their horror, Kurdish leaders suddenly found 12 years later that the US army was about to invade Iraq from the north accompanied by 40,000 Turkish troops. This would have ended their de facto autonomy. They were only saved when the Turkish parliament astonished American diplomats by rejecting the invasion plan. Overnight the Kurds became America's only reliable allies inside Iraq and this has remained true.

Today, as war rages though the rest of Iraq, the only peaceful parts of the country are the three Kurdish provinces of Arbil, Sulaimaniyah and Dohuk. Kurdistan's hotels are packed with well-off refugees from Baghdad, Basra and Mosul, who have fled there to escape kidnappers and murderers. In the Iraqi capital, despite the billions of dollars supposedly spent on reconstruction, there is scarcely a crane to be seen on the skyline. In the cities of Arbil and Sulaimaniyah, in sharp contrast, the cranes rise above construction sites in almost every street. Doctors who dare not work elsewhere in Iraq are opening smart new clinics. Even prostitutes from Baghdad have moved to Kurdistan, complaining that it is too dangerous to ply their trade in the capital.

The Kurdish gains are not just within the three northern provinces that they have ruled for 15 years. The Kurdish area of control is now much bigger. As the Iraqi army collapsed in April 2003, the peshmerga - Kurdish soldiers - advanced into cities, towns and villages from which their people had been driven long before. In the space of a few days they were able to occupy Kirkuk city and the nearby oilfields.

Suddenly there were peshmerga in the streets of Mosul, a mostly Sunni Arab city of 1.7 million people but with a large Kurdish minority. Kurdish forces were able to extend control to towns like Khanaqin, north-east of Baghdad, which Saddam Hussein had given to Arab settlers.

The power of the Kurds has not just increased geographically. The President of Iraq, chosen by parliament in Baghdad last year, is Jalal Talabani, for many years the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which is in control of eastern Kurdistan. The very able foreign minister of Iraq since 2003 has been Hoshyar Zebari, the former spokesman of the other main Kurdish party, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). Paradoxically, the most effective members of the Iraqi government in Baghdad are Kurds who at heart would like to have a legally independent state of their own. The best units in the new Iraqi army and security forces consist of Kurdish soldiers.

But for all their outward show of self-confidence, many Kurds worry about their future. Could this be the high tide of their fortunes? For the moment their position is strong, though this could change. They are firmly allied to the US, but Washington has shown no qualms about letting them down in the past. As it withdraws its troops from Iraq it may once again look to its old ally Turkey, with its large Kurdish community and visceral suspicion of the Iraqi Kurds.

Again, the Kurds are strong because the Arabs of Iraq, the Sunni and Shia communities, together making up 80 per cent of the population, are effectively fighting a civil war in and around Baghdad. But what would happen if they came together in future? Would not one of their first priorities be to rein in the Kurds, who are now so powerful?

Of course, the opposite might happen and Iraq might break up. But this would not necessarily be good news for the Kurds. Already they are being forced to flee Baghdad and Sunni Arab provinces where they are a small minority vulnerable to assassins and death squads.

I first encountered the Kurds at the nadir of their fortunes in 1975, when Saddam Hussein had taken over Kurdistan after Iran, in return for Iraqi territorial concessions, withdrew support for the Kurdish national movement. His act of betrayal did not do the Shah much good. Three years later I was in Tehran where Ayatollah Khomeini had just overthrown him. I drove two days to the Iranian border with Iraq to meet Massoud Barzani, today president of the Kurdistan Regional Government. He was holding a meeting to try to reorganise the Kurdish forces.

Their prospects looked bleak enough to me. They were fighting a wholly ruthless leader, Saddam Hussein, with a powerful army and ever-increasing oil wealth. The Iraqi leader had yet to reveal that he had an infinite ability to shoot himself in the foot by exaggerating his own strength and underestimating that of his opponents. Having convinced himself that Ayatollah Khomeini's regime would be a soft target, he attacked Iran in 1980 and the Iranians retaliated by giving support to the Iraqi Kurds.

The Iran-Iraq war ended with an even more terrible defeat for the Kurds. Those who were not killed saw their country devastated. The uprising of 1991, in the wake of Saddam Hussein's defeat in Kuwait, swept away Saddam's rule in a few days. Kurdish soldiers captured Kirkuk. But as the Iraqi army counter-offensive gathered strength, the entire Kurdish population fled to the borders of Turkey and Iran. A wave of sympathy provoked by their flight forced the US to provide air cover, allowing a de facto Kurdish state to begin to come into being.

Saddam Hussein believed he could leave Kurdistan alone because it was isolated, war-torn and impoverished. In this he was not wrong. In 1996 I visited a village called Penjwin, not far from Iraq's border with Iran. The Kurdish villagers, living on the verge of starvation, had taken up the world's most dangerous occupation to feed their families.

Around Penjwin were some of the largest minefields in the world, laid by the Iraqi army at the height of the Iran-Iraq war. One of these mines was called the Valmara, an Italian jumping mine which looks like a miniature Dalek with horns on its head. Touch one of these prongs and a small charge makes it hop into the air before exploding at waist height, sending hundreds of lethal ball-bearings in all directions.

Such was the poverty in Penjwin, however, that villagers would defuse the Valmara to earn a few dollars by selling the explosives it contained and the aluminium in which they were wrapped. The local cemetery was full of the newly dug graves of men who had made some small slip while dismantling the mine; others had somehow survived with the loss of a hand or a leg and could be seen limping down the village street.

I always thought of Penjwin as the epitome of the misery to which the Kurds had been reduced by decades of war. But the courage and ingenuity needed to harvest the minefields was also a sign that they would survive the disasters inflicted on them. When I went back to Penjwin in 2005, parts of the village were being rebuilt. Minefields were still visible beside the road, their presence indicated by metal sticks with red triangles on top, but many had been cleared.

The villagers said they were no longer so poor that they had to defuse the Valmaras to make money. They lived instead on the government ration, herding sheep and, when night fell, on the flourishing smuggling trade with Iran a few miles down the road.

Kurdistan was for decades the most dangerous part of Iraq. Getting there was always a challenge. When I went a few weeks before the invasion in 2003, I had to cross the Tigris from Syria secretly in a tin boat with an outboard motor.

Three years later it is far less nerve-racking to travel to Arbil, the Kurdish capital, than Baghdad. Its newly built airport is already overstretched, with 60 to 70 flights a week to and from Europe and the rest of the Middle East. When I flew there from Amsterdam last month my main anxiety was loss of my luggage as the small airport tried to cope with the influx of passengers. It was all very different from Baghdad, where the burnt-out cars used by suicide bombers lie beside the airport road.

At first, Arbil, the world's oldest inhabited city with a population of about a million, appears normal compared with the rest of Iraq. New houses and apartment blocks are being built across the city. People drive late at night without worrying about curfews. The lawn of the main International Hotel, invariably called the Sheraton, is covered with tables crowded with diners listening to live music.

It takes a little time to realise that not everything is quite as seems. My hotel, for instance, had more than a dozen flags, including those of Brazil and Morocco, fluttering from poles outside its main door. Few visitors noticed that the only flag missing was that of Iraq, the country in which the hotel is standing.

In theory, the administration of Kurdistan, once deeply divided between the warring mini-states of the KDP and PUK, has united since 8 May 2006 into a single integrated government, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). There is a joint 32-member cabinet. The degree of unity is difficult to judge, but at least the Kurds have presented a united front to the rest of Iraq and the world.

Kurdistan is not wholly sealed off from the problems of the rest of Iraq. It is still connected to the Iraqi electrical grid, and electricity is in permanently short supply. Every few hundred yards along the road are young men selling petrol in clear plastic containers. The fuel smuggled in from Iran, considered to be of premium quality, is coloured pink, and that from Iraqi refineries has a clear colour. Substitution of inferior fuel is frequent. Drivers suspiciously smell and rub a sample of petrol through their hands to see if it has been watered down and colour added with a spoonful of red paint before sale.

I may have too rosy a view of Kurdistan because I have too vivid a memory of the bloodiness of its recent past. I half-unconsciously compare every city and town with the way they looked after the the wars of the recent past. My hotel in Arbil, for instance, was fought for by the KDP and PUK during the civil wars between them in the 1990s. Its walls were scarred by machine gun and rocket fire. Arbil was a city that lived with fear. At the start of the war to overthrow Saddam Hussein, most of the city's population fled into the country because they thought he would fire chemical weapons into Arbil.

Set in a green plain surrounded by snow-streaked mountains, Sulaimaniyah in eastern Kurdistan was always a prettier city than Arbil. For months now the centre of town has been blocked by a half-built flyover on which work is proceeding at a snail's pace. Local people speak witheringly of the high-level official corruption. Possibly they are right. But the present is at least better than the past. The mountains overlooking Sulaimaniyah are impressive, but I remember, after the Iraqi army recaptured the city in 1991, standing in their foothills beside an excavator that was unearthing a mass grave filled with the bodies of Iraqi security men. They had been slaughtered by the peshmerga.

Whenever I forget the violence of the recent past in Kurdistan, something happens to remind me. I was driving earlier this summer to a resort called Shaqlawa in the mountains above Arbil. The driver of the car had been pointing out various points of interest on the road when he added, without changing his tone of voice, "over there my father and elder brother were shot dead by the Iraqi army during the uprising".

The great majority of Iraqi Kurds would like to be independent, but most are probably resignedly aware of the great dangers involved. They have also become ever more different from other Iraqis. Fewer and fewer speak Arabic. When I asked a hundred peshmerga how many spoke the language as well as Kurdish, only three men put up their hands. Kurdistan also stands out as being broadly secular in a country that is becoming more Islamic. Nevertheless, the Kurdish leaders know that they must have an alliance with the Shia religious parties inside Iraq and the support of the US outside it. Even if Iraq becomes more and more of a geographical expression, the Kurds need to be part of it.

Most Iraqi Arabs accept that the three northern, wholly Kurdish provinces should enjoy autonomy close to independence. The real differences arise in defining Kurdistan. The Kurds intend to roll back half a century of ethnic cleansing, above all in the oil province of Kirkuk, over which they have de facto military and political control. They want Arab settlers to return to their homes elsewhere in Iraq and Kurdish refugees to replace them. By 31 December 2007 there should be a referendum under which Kirkuk can vote to join the Kurdistan Regional Government.

The fate of Kirkuk province has traditionally been the single issue on which agreements between past governments in Baghdad and the Kurds have always broken. At the moment the Kurds have the strength to get most of what they want, though they might have to cede control of the heavily Arab western part of the province. But their determination to include Kirkuk in their Kurdish super-region convinces Arabs that, whatever the Kurds say, they are bent on practical independence.

In the meantime, violence in Kirkuk is escalating. On 13 June, four suicide bombs killed at least 16 people in the city. Arab militiamen are establishing a presence. When I visited Kirkuk earlier in the year Kurdish security had arrested a doctor called Luay al-Tai at the local Republican hospital, who confessed to murdering 43 patients, mostly wounded security men and soldiers. The member of an insurgent cell, Dr Luay had injected them with lethal drugs or switched off their oxygen supply over a five-month period up to February 2006.

Economically, Kurdistan is still tied to Baghdad, from which it receives 17 per cent of Iraq's oil revenues. Under the new constitution, oilfields developed in future will be managed by the regional government. The KRG has already signed agreements with several foreign oil companies to explore for oil inside the three northern provinces, and some oil has been discovered. Old oilfields, mostly in desperate need of repair and maintenance, will be managed by the oil ministry in Baghdad.

For the Kurds, it is all the most delicate of balancing acts. They want an Iraqi state to prevent their becoming too vulnerable to Turkey or Iran. Iranian artillery recently fired 2,000 shells across the border with Iraqi Kurdistan to drive this point home. Within Iraq the Kurds need an agreement with the Shia, who make up 60 per cent of the country's population. Kurdish leaders are intent on keeping close to the US as foreign guarantor against the Iranians and Turks.

So far the Kurdish leaders have been astute in dealing with the myriad threats facing them and, thanks to a certain amount of luck, successful. They also know that failure would once again exact a terrible price from their people.

PETER W. GALBRAITH:

Iraq's salvation lies in letting it break apart


The partition of Iraq into separate Kurdish, Sunni and Shi'ite areas is the only route to peace, writes Peter Galbraith

As horrific sectarian fighting unfolded early this year after the bombing of the Askariya shrine in Samarra, I was staying in the Baghdad headquarters of Kurdistan's president, Massoud Barzani, putting the finishing touches to my book on the future of Iraq.

Because of the headquarters' central location in the fortified green zone, Iraq's leaders gathered there to discuss the crisis. It was clear they saw it as a civil war.

As if to underline the point, three 9ft Katyusha rockets landed in close proximity to Barzani's house while I was writing. Fortunately, the closest one -- some 20 yards from me -- was a dud.

The daily body count in Baghdad then was averaging 40, with many corpses found with eyes gouged out, flesh drilled and other marks of beastly torture. By last week it had risen to 60.

There is no good solution to the mess in Iraq. The country has broken up. The United States cannot put it back together again and cannot stop the civil war.

The conventional wisdom holds that Iraq's break-up would be destabilising and should be avoided at all costs. Looking at Iraq's dismal history since Britain cobbled it together from three Ottoman provinces at the end of the first world war, it should be apparent that it is the effort to hold Iraq together that has been destabilising.

Pursuit of a coerced unity under Sunni-Arab domination -- from the first British-installed king to the end of the Saddam Hussein dictatorship in 2003 -- has led to endless violence, repression and genocide.

I do not believe it is possible in the long run to force people living in a geographically defined area to remain part of a state against their will. Certainly Iraq's Kurds will never reconcile themselves to being part of Iraq. Under these circumstances I believe that a managed amicable divorce is in the best interests of the peoples of Iraq and will hasten American and British withdrawal.

At the beginning of this year the Bush administration invested heavily in diplomatic efforts aimed at forming a national unity government that included the Shi'ites, Kurds, Sunni Arabs and secularists. It took until late April to agree on a prime minister, president, two vice-presidents and the speaker of the parliament. Because of its internal tensions, the government is not likely to function very well. Even if it does, what will it govern?

Not Kurdistan: the regional government insists on its constitutional authority to run its region. Baghdad ministries are not allowed to open offices there.

Not the Shi'ite south: it is run by a patchwork of municipal and governorate officials who front for the clerics, religious parties and militias that are the real power in the region.

Not the Sunni-Arab heartland: it is a battleground. The American military, assisted by Shi'ite troops, are at war with insurgents and foreign terrorists. Many Sunni Arabs despise both sides of this battle, but it does not mean that they will accept the authority of a Shi'ite-led national government which they see as installed by the Americans and aligned with Iran.

Not Baghdad, at least outside the green zone: Iraq's capital is a city of armed camps. Wealthy Iraqis maintain private armies for security. Although most of Iraq's ministries are outside the green zone, many ministers live inside it. Most rarely go to their offices and spend their days visiting colleagues in the zone. There is much talk at the highest levels of Iraq's government -- but little government.

The situation should be blindingly obvious to the top US officials who visit. After three years of occupation they cannot leave the green zone or even move within the zone without a security detail the size of a small army.

Even when America and Britain had full legal authority in Iraq in 2003 and 2004, they did nothing to arrest the break-up of the country.

In the south they allowed the Shi'ite clergy and religious parties to take power and to build their Islamic states. While saying that Kurdistan should rejoin Iraq, America did nothing to reduce any part of Kurdistan's autonomy. While outlawing armed forces that were not part of the Iraqi army, the coalition allowed militias to proliferate.

If the coalition could not prevent Iraq's unravelling when it was fully in charge of the country, it is illogical now to put all the emphasis on building strong national institutions, such as a single Iraqi army and powerful central government, when American influence is much diminished.

How could a divorce be carried through? Arab Iraqi leaders have told me privately that they accept Kurdistan's right to self-determination. Some seem to prefer that Kurdistan should leave, having grown weary of its refusal to make any concessions to a shared state. With settled borders, the split between Kurdistan and Arab Iraq could be more like Czechoslovakia's velvet divorce than Yugoslavia's wars.

Turkey -- with many Kurds living within its borders -- has long been considered the chief obstacle to Kurdish dreams for an independent state. Turkish attitudes have evolved significantly, however. Some Turkish strategic thinkers, including those within the so-called "deep state" comprising the military and intelligence establishments, see a secular, pro-western and non-Arab Kurdistan as a buffer to an Islamic Arab state to the south.

If the Shi'ite south forms a region, it can set up a theocratic government and establish a regional guard. Iran will be the dominant power and the Bush administration has no ability, and no intention, of countering Iran's position there.

These are not welcome developments but they need not be catastrophic. For the United States and the world's Shi'ites (including the Iranians) have a common interest in defeating Al-Qaeda and its kindred Sunni fundamentalist movements.

Certainly Iraq's Shi'ites would line up against the United States in the event of an American confrontation with Iran. But America could have good relations with a southern Iraqi Shi'ite theocracy that did not share the tortured US relationship with Iran but came to power through a democratic process that coalition troops made possible. And an elected regional government -- with a regional guard responsible to it -- would certainly be preferable to the current ad hoc system of informal Islamic rule enforced by sometimes competing militias.

Even a theocratic government can provide the political and economic stability needed to permit new investment in the south's vast oil reserves. By providing technical assistance to a southern government, America and its coalition partners may have some influence on internal developments.

The continued presence of American and British military forces in Iraq's south can only aggravate relations with the Shi'ite authorities without any corresponding gain in what is a relatively secure part of Iraq. Last year British troops clashed on several occasions with local police and militias. One incident -- where British forces attacked a police station to rescue two British special forces troops who had been arrested while working undercover -- nearly escalated out of control.

As long as the coalition remains in the south there is a risk of more incidents. Troops should be withdrawn in a rapid but orderly fashion.

What about the Sunni-Arab heartland? Here America faces a dilemma. The US military presence among hostile Sunni Arabs seems to generate an endless supply of new suicide bombers and insurgent fighters. If America withdraws from the Sunni heartland, even more territory may fall into the hands of insurgents and terrorists.

The pogroms after the destruction of the Askariya shrine served as a wake-up call to many Sunni Arabs. In a Sunni-Shi'ite civil war, Sunni Arabs realise they will lose. They may come to see the formation of a region as essential for self-protection and therefore be less worried that federalism will lead to the dissolution of Iraq.

If the Sunnis establish a regional guard, it could take over security responsibilities from the Americans and the Shi'ite-dominated Iraqi army. America could withdraw, making it clear that US forces would return only if the regional authorities allowed Al-Qaeda and other anti-western terrorists to operate freely from the region.

It will need to keep a force nearby, ready to intervene. Kurdistan is the ideal location. It is close, the local population are friendly and it is at present still in Iraq.

Even if the Sunni Arabs do not form a region, the United States should still withdraw and leave security duties to the Iraqi army, which would presumably continue to use Shi'ite forces there.

In sum: partition works as a political solution for Kurdistan, the Shi'ite south and the Sunni Arab centre because it formalises what has already taken place. By contrast, the American effort to build a unified state with a non-sectarian, non-ethnic police and army has not produced that result nor made much progress towards it.

There is one remaining problem. Partition is a way to get most coalition forces out of Iraq quickly. It does not solve the problem of Baghdad, however.

Theoretically, the United States has the power to provide some level of security in Baghdad. This would require many more troops and result in many more casualties. And it might not work. It is hard to imagine that there is any support for this role in America.

The alternative is to recognise that there is not much that America is able and willing to do to stop the bloodshed in Baghdad. Once they get started, modern civil wars develop a momentum of their own. In Baghdad and other mixed Sunni-Shi'ite areas, America cannot contribute to the solution because there is no solution, at least not in the foreseeable future.

It is a tragedy and it is unsatisfying to admit that there is little that can be done about it. But it is so. No purpose is served by a prolonged American presence anywhere in Arab Iraq.

© Peter W Galbraith 2006

Extracted from The End of Iraq by Peter W Galbraith, published by Simon & Schuster tomorrow at £17.99. Copies can be ordered for £16.19 including postage from The Sunday Times BooksFirst on 0870 165 8585. Peter Galbraith is a former US ambassador with a long involvement in policy on Iraq

Kani Xulam:

Should There be an Independent Kurdistan?

U. S. Naval Academy Annapolis, Maryland

(An older version of this statement was also delivered at Johns Hopkins University on March 21, 2005)

Imagine I were an American and lived some sixty plus years ago and said I am for the Japanese invasion of America, or a Russian who concurred with the German occupation of the Soviet Union, or a Brit who declared his support for the Nazi attack on England. I would have been branded as a traitor and sent to the gallows by acclamation in America, the Soviet Union and Great Britain respectively. I am a Kurd. I am no less patriotic than an American or a Russian or a Brit who lived in the course of the Second World War. Like them, I want independence for my country and freedom for my people. Closer to these shores, if I have to make an analogy with your past, please, for example, do not use my name in the same sentence with Benedict Arnold. Do so with Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine, Nathan Hale, and forgive me for my presumption, Thomas Jefferson. That is where I stand relative to you. This is why thousands of Kurds like me work around the clock to free Kurdistan from the yoke of the Turks, the Arabs and the Persians. So my answer to the question of should there be an independent Kurdistan is a clear, direct and resounding one, a categorical yes, and a thousand times on behalf of my friends, now and forever.

But before I share with you the story of the Kurds and Kurdistan, I want to tell you of a friend of mine who last November sent me a copy of Harper's Magazine with a note that read, "Kani, take a look at page fourteen. See if you and your people could match the creativity of the Americans. Let's face it; you can't beat the combined forces of the Turks, the Arabs and the Persians. What you need is a clever tactic to outfox them one by one or all together. I would be curious to know if "Naked Aggression" could do it. If it does, don't forget to credit the Americans for the idea. If it doesn't, well, you get my point, continue putting those brain cells to work, if need be overtime, to do liberty's thankless task for your brothers and sisters. Best wishes, Julie." She even had a p.s.: "If you think a blond New Englander can help, let me know. But be in the know that I would need something stronger than beer to disrobe myself. Hint, a bottle of Turkish raki all to myself might just do the trick!"

I went to the referenced page and read the following announcement that was quoted from the summer issue of, Travel Naturally, titled, "Naked Aggression". Because it is short, I want to read you the whole thing. "As you may already know, it is a sin for a Taliban male to see any woman other than his wife naked, and he must commit suicide if he does (which could explain the rash of suicide bombers around the world.) So, in honor of National Nude Recreation Week, on Saturday, July 10, [2004] at 4 P.M. Eastern Time, all American women are asked to walk out of their houses completely naked to help weed out neighborhood terrorists. Circling your block for one hour is recommended for this anti-terrorist effort. All men are to position themselves on lawn chairs in front of their houses to prove that they are not Taliban and to demonstrate that they think it's okay to see nude women other than their wives, and to show support for all American women. And since the Taliban also do not approve of alcohol, a cold six-pack at your side is further proof of your anti-Taliban sentiment. The American government appreciates your efforts to root out terrorists and applauds your participation in this anti-terrorist activity. God bless America. It is your patriotic duty to spread the word."

If I say a smile didn't cross my face, I would be lying to you. The idea was cute; the problem was with the enemy. The Turks, the Arabs, and the Persians who occupy our lands and force us to sing their national anthems and goad us to adopt their cultures are not hiding in the cellars, but marching on our streets in broad daylight and to the tune of trumpets. If our women were to go naked in front of them, some of these soldiers might think heaven has finally come down to earth, and aim for as many as 72 of our sisters per person mistaking them for houris promised to the Muslim faithful in paradise. Since we don't have that many women to go around for the lechers of the occupying armies, it occurred to me that, if we were actually to undertake the suggestion, they might just fight each other to death, and leave us alone. That would be one big wishful thinking on my part. The reality, however, would be very, very different. The nudity would be construed as an open invitation for mass rape and the Kurdish husbands would shoot the hapless American who suggested the idea even at a prayer. So, while I was grateful to my friend Julie for her ready and biting wit in connecting the Taliban with the Turkish, Arab and Persian soldiers, the result would have been a disaster notwithstanding beer, raki or blond hair.

So, the "Julie Model" out of the way, I thought of your country for some lessons on how it had managed to unmoor itself from the clutches of one of the greatest empires in the world. For some reason, John Adams, your second president, came to my mind. In a letter to a friend, he had noted that in the best days of the Revolutionary War, the Patriots had the support of only one third of Americans, another third were Loyalists, and the final third were sitting on the fence waiting to see who was going to win. As someone who has dedicated twelve years of his life to the cause of Kurdish revolution, the letter spoke to me. But his observation, like that of Julie's, doesn't apply to the Kurds. The Americans fought one power, Great Britain, while another one, France, aided and abetted them. We are fighting three peoples, the Turks, the Arabs and the Persians; four countries, Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran; and unlike your ancestors, no one has bothered to stand up for us, so far, in spite of our ceaseless efforts to respond to freedom's call. There is more. Turkey, which controls more than half of the historical land of the Kurds and its corresponding population, is courted, aided and abetted, still, by the children of Jefferson, Lincoln, and Wilson. What has happened to your country? Can yesterday's revolutionaries be today's reactionaries? I have a Kurdish tale to share with you. You have a reputation and honor to uphold as befitting the children of liberty.

You are probably wondering how did we get ourselves into such a mess. It is a long story, but suffice it to note that our beginnings like the beginnings of other peoples in the world are shrouded in mystery. But our recent past, which is the source of much of our anguish, is relatively new. When your country was getting ready to declare its independence, my country was already carved up between Ottoman and Persian Empires. But just as your states had only nominal ties with the mother country, the Kurdish tribes or principalities had likewise a tenuous relationship with their Turkish and Persian overlords. For example, successive Ottoman sultans took pride in saying that they were the proud rulers of Kurdistan. But many Kurds never saw these rulers and these rulers, unlike their children who are now running Turkey, respected the national habits of the Kurds. The same "live and let live" attitude pretty much prevailed in the Persian Empire. Ehmede Xani, a contemporary of William Shakespeare, wrote his own version of Romeo and Juliet, Mem u Zin, and also put into writing his deepest yearnings for an independent Kurdistan. He was not hunted down as a heretic. Three hundred years later his book goes through redactions to be published in the place of his birth. And the literary critics who analyze his seminal work serve time behind bars on charges of sedition.

I am just a bit curious to know if we have any volunteers in the audience tonight who are willing to forgo their comforts of today and live, let's say in the America of 1776 or of 1860s? You would not, and no one should fault you for it. If I tell you that I would switch places in a heartbeat to live in eighteen-century Ottoman Kurdistan, how many of you would believe me? You see things have gotten worse for us Kurds. I am glad you have been spared the misfortune's slings and arrows as they say. In our case, we have been forgotten by God, abused by men, slated by law to wait for our ends not only as individuals but also as a people, as a nation, and as a country. Adolph Hitler, in the waning days of his misrule, wanted all Germans to die because in his words, they were not good enough to fight for him. We have not produced a monster like him, but others have stepped up to his plate and want us to bid a permanent farewell to the world. They are, to name just a few, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Saddam Hussein, Reza Pahlavi, Hafiz Al Assad, Ayatollah Khomeini, Recep Tayip Erdogan, and there is even a woman, a disgrace to her sex, among these miscreants, Tansu Ciller. Who are these criminals that are calling for the extirpation of the Kurds? Why aren't they singled out as Hitler wannabes for their crimes against humanity? Aren't the Kurds humans?

I am sorry to ruin your night but your cousins in Europe have the patent for this idea that has done some good in the world, but a lot of, and I mean a lot of, ill as well. Otto von Bismarck called it the "national principle." Historians are pretty much in agreement that it came into the consciousness of European men with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. On that year, after exhaustive religious wars, the European heads of states heralded the new age of what we today call national liberation struggles. Men like Napoleon and Hitler wanted to subvert the emerging system to suit their personal egos, but were quickly brought to their senses, the first through an exile and the second through a suicide. In their wake equality of European nations became a goal in itself with its attendant blessings of peace, stability, security, and prosperity. Today, Germans rule only Germans. The Russians no longer dominate the Poles. If Scots have accepted to be part of Great Britain, it is not by force, but choice approved by the majority of the highlanders. That is why an institution like the European Union can come into existence, without a glitch, but not the "Thousand Year Reich" that Adolph Hitler thought he could saddle on the continent with himself as its founder and fuehrer for as long as he lived.

But the abomination called the domination of one race over the other goes on unabated less than one thousand miles from Berlin in the heart of the Middle East. What Adolph Hitler could not do with his undesirables and sub-humans in his six years of wars, the modern Turks together with the Arabs and the Persians have done a phenomenal work with their Kurdish populations in 82 years of "peace" prompting some Kurds to question if there is life before death. What kind of life is it that you can't teach your own children your language? What kind of life is it that your radio sings not your songs but those of your oppressors? What kind of life is it that your television mocks you not during Comedy Central hour but on primetime live? What kind of life is it that you have to tell your little sons and daughters that they can never be the best, the best is reserved for the children of the masters, that they have to contend themselves with the crumbs and accept it, here is the hard part, as God's will? And what kind of life is it that your enemies outnumber your friends and an indifferent world supplies them with the state of the art weapons including the chemical ones? That life and more was my lot till I sought refuge on these shores and it remains pretty much the same in much of Kurdistan like a nightmare that refuses to leave you alone.

I already told you that your cousins were the originators of the patent for the national liberation struggles. Let me also tell you that they were the authors of the death certificate of Kurdistan. Lausanne Treaty is the fancy name for it. It was signed on July 24, 1923. Ottoman Kurdistan, which constituted 76 % of Kurdish lands, was partitioned among the emerging states of the Middle East, Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. Iran claimed the title deed to the rest through the grandfather clause. There were also pockets of Kurds in the newly named Soviet Union. Winston Churchill, the Colonial Secretary for the British government, took it upon himself to play God with the peoples of the Middle East. Families whose immediate pedigrees included shepherds were declared kings and given tracts of lands to be called countries that survive to this day. Kurds were seen fit to be the lackeys of these newly crowned despots whose conduct required a microscope to differentiate it from the European fascism. Never were a subjugated people so carelessly divided or so heinously ruled in the history of the modern world. But as Malcolm X would say, the chickens have come home to roost. Dictatorships have produced monsters that are now attacking you as well. Your self-preservation and our self-determination have now become the two sides of the same coin. The question is will you rise to the challenge? Perhaps someone in the audience could make me privy to the to the prevailing sentiment in your government.

If you thought you could just support despots who practiced fascism and called themselves the Muslim world's only democracy such as Turkey, or irrational violent nationalisms displayed by the likes of Saddam Hussein who passed as a stabilizing force in the region, or even the predecessors of Taliban, the Mujahaddin in Afghanistan who brought about the end of Cold War with all kinds of state of the art weapons and live happily ever after in your homes, think no longer so for a brand new world has descended upon us forcing you to make a choice similar to what your grandfathers grappled with over the issue of slavery. Then, mercifully, freedom won. Today it is maybe flourishing in some parts of the world, but there are many, many regions that suffer from man-made darkness of medieval proportions. These abominable systems used to be a world away from everything you knew and cared about, but 9/11 debunked that illusion once and for good. That is why your leaders are now awake at night at the White House. That is why the cultural genocide of the Kurds is no longer an isolated thing, but part and parcel of the ideology of hatred that hunts you as it continues to consume us.

Nothing was supposed to disturb this unholy consumption, but as Bismark once noted, events have a way of overtaking the plans sometimes. Last month, the Financial Times ran an article with the following provocative title, "Young Turks Discover Sudden Interest in Mein Kampf". A German official was quoted as saying, "The availability and rising popularity of this book ... are matters of serious concern to us." I couldn't help but mutter to myself did the German official expect the Turks to read the sermons of St. Francis of Assisi? As someone who follows the Turks closely and speaks their language fluently, why wasn't I surprised about the news? Are we the residents of the same planet? What counts for the discrepancy in our feelings? Wait, if you think what I shared with you was shocking, let me tell you the amusing as well, there is another runaway bestseller in Turkey, this one called "The Storm of the Steel", which depicts the toppling of the Turkish regime by your Marines. Hope is the driving force behind the sales in the Kurdish parts of the country, says a Kurdish comedian, and fear is what is driving the sales among the Turks, he adds with an undisguised glee.

Joke aside, why are these books so popular in Turkey? The criminals do not trust the present says a Roman maxim. Are the Turks afraid of the Kurdish gains in Iraq? There is no question in my mind that some of the highest ranking Turkish officials have trouble sleeping at night over what is happening to their south. President Bush has caught them with their pants down, if you will. Iraqi Kurds are marching forward with their gains for statehood within Iraq if possible, but without if necessary. If in a "backward", according to the Turks, and despotic Arab country, the Kurds can get on their feet, what will the world say of "democratic" Turkey, according to the world, that to date gets tongue-tied to acknowledge twenty million Kurds in its midst? But as honest Turks would be quick to tell you, the fraud that is Turkey is entering a phase with no prospects of a U-turn. The winds of change are favoring the cause of subject peoples. It happened in another prison of nations called the Soviet Union. Why should Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran be immune to it?

I began my lecture with a letter from my friend Julie and would like to end it with one from your president to the peoples of Kurdistan. I do this on the assumption that wisdom has become the guiding principle at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, President George W. Bush has been fully apprised of the Kurdish Question, and has decided to pursue a new policy matching his rhetoric as "a servant of freedom". Here is what it would say without further ado.

"To the Peoples of Kurdistan,

"I don't want to come across Clintonesque and say I am sorry, 'I feel your pain', and supply Turkey with all kinds of weaponry to exterminate your race. I am as my critics are quick to note, a late bloomer of sort, not only in terms of my academics but also in terms of my responsibilities. As many of you may know, I was a heavy drinker for part of my adult life. At Yale, Cs were my favorite grades, but I always aced it with the members of the opposite sex. After college, I wondered a bit, traveled a lot, but never lost my interest in what I really liked in New Haven. At one time, I had seven different apartments "from sea to shining sea". Then, I met Laura. I also discovered my faith. I am a different person now. I say these things because I believe, as my religion does, in the power of redemption. I am an example of it. You could, in your own ways, do it as well.

"I have thought long and hard about your plight. The closest thing that I can compare it to is my encounter with a passage in Moby Dick, America's favorite novel by Herman Melville. In the lengthy tome, there is a boy named Pip, an African American helper, on the ship. In the course of a chase for a whale, Pip is pulled into the ocean and left, for an hour, to fight for his life to keep himself abreast of the waves. For it happens to be his second fall, and in the course of the first he is saved at the cost of a wounded whale making a run for its life. Stubb, his immediate supervisor, wastes no time to nag him, "Stick to the boat, Pip, or by the Lord, I won't pick you up if you jump; mind that. We can't afford to lose whales by the likes of you; a whale would sell for thirty times what you would, Pip, in Alabama. Bear that in mind, and don't jump any more." He goes on to intimate, "that though man loved his fellow, yet man is a money-making animal, which propensity too often interferes with his benevolence."

"But when Pip is left in the middle of the ocean to fend for himself, Melville writes, "The sea had jeeringly kept his finite body up, but drowned the infinite of his soul. Not drowned entirely, though. Rather carried down alive to wondrous depths, where strange shapes of the unwarped primal world glided to and fro before his passive eyes; and the miser-merman, Wisdom, revealed his hoarded heaps; and among the joyous, heartless, ever-juvenile eternities, Pip saw the innumerable, God-omnipresent, coral insects, that out of the firmament of waters heaved to colossal orbs. He saw God's foot upon the treadle of the loom and spoke it; and therefore his shipmates called him mad."

"I could not help but pause here and say look who is who calling who "mad"? I finally figured out that my country and the world has given you, the peoples of Kurdistan, the Pip treatment for the last 82 years. Such a blanket condemnation of an entire people is an ungodly crime, and as a born again Christian, I can never forgive myself nor be forgiven by God if I can stop it and choose not to do so.

"Accordingly, beginning today, I am doing what France did for America in 1776 or America did for France in 1917 and again in 1944 and that is to engage in a rescue operation by ordering our armed forces in Iraq to let you declare your independence in 18 % of Kurdistan. In so doing, I am also expressing my agreement with our 29th President Woodrow Wilson who noted some 88 years ago that if you want to make the world safe for democracy you have to support the right of subject peoples to self-determination. As to the rest of Kurdistan, you can count on me to support you not only because of our new friendship, but also because it is in my country's national interest to extirpate despotism whenever and wherever it raises its ugly head.

May God bless the peoples of America and Kurdistan!

George W. Bush."

As an avid reader of everything related to the Kurds, I can report to you with absolute certainty that this letter was neither contemplated nor penned for the peoples of Kurdistan. The day it is written, the world will see the rebirth of an old nation in the region, and the eventual truncation of three other states to their proper sizes to pave the way for the greater Kurdistan to emerge and assume its proper place among the community of nations. Only then can one speak of a European model of peace, stability, security and prosperity in the northern Middle East. Nothing else will do it. Every other effort will be a waste of effort not even worth comparing it to the herculean efforts of Sisyphus and his ceaseless efforts to push the famous boulder to the top of the mountain.

By: Amed Demirhan:

Anti-Semitism in Turkey

Historically anti-Semitism all most always has been related to general intolerance, racism, and xenophobia. In modern Turkey this elements have the main ingredients of foundation of the Turkish Republic. In republican era there have been up and down with anti-Semitism and some times high-ranking government officials have been speaking positively about Jews and Israel and even claming to be protectors of the Jewish minority in Turkey. However, in recent years anti-Semitism and racism become very dangerous, and not just targeted to small minority of Jews in Turkey but to the "Donme" the Jews that were converted about 300 years ago to Islam and "Turkism", and to Jews in general.

In the past Jews were forced to relocation in 1924, forced to pay higher taxes or forced to bankruptcy by force of government, for example in 1942 infamous "Wealth Tax" that directed to non-Muslim minorities. In 1955 they were targeted in Istanbul together Greek and Armenians. In late 1980s and in 1990s Jewish or "Donme" business people were subject of "Ulkucu Mafia" a state sponsored extreme rights group was taking money from Jews by force and illegally. Some Jewish businessman had to move to the USA and Israel.

However, recent anti-Semitism is more dangerous, in the past it was limited to small marginal leftist, Marxist, Islamist, and fascist groups, and all most of them were controlled by the state; now anti-Semitism is becoming a mass movement like 1930s Europe. Some people seemed surprised to see Hitler's book become best seller, in reality there are many more anti-Semitics books and articles recently have been published and they are more dangerous than Hitler's book. For example, the Dr. Yalicin Kucuk a former Marxist his book titled "Tekelistan" about Jews and specifically about donme, it has more conspiracy in it than Hitler's book. This book become so popular he had to write several other books and among many other Pan-Turkist/Pan-Islamists become Dr. Kucuk's main readers. In addition Yalcin Soner's book about "Done" was one of the best seller in Turkey for long time. Mr. Soner's book is comparable with Dr. Kucuk's book. All major newspapers are daily full with anti-Semitic remarks. These conspiracies includes Jews or "hidden Jews" been in charge of the Turkish state, been behind separatist movements, Islamist movements, been in charge of America, or Israel Zionist conspiracy to take over South Eastern part of Turkey. The type of conspiracy dependent to the ideology of the writers, for example if an Islamist write like Sevket Eygi he will claim Turkey's ethnic conflict is invention of the Jews, Kemalist-nationalist will claim Jews are in charge of America and they try to divide Turkey, and so on. Fighting against ant-Semitism is as important as fighting against Nazism, neo-Nazism or any totalitarian regime or ideology. One of the important ways fighting against anti-Semitism in Turkey is defending freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom of assembly, and Western pluralistic democracy.

By: Kamal Rajab:

Befriending the friendless Ally

The enormity of philanthropist financial aid; loan and military assistance that Turkey grooves on per annum from the Allies is beyond totaling. The US is one of the greatest benefactors with hundreds of millions of dollar pouring into Turkey to further help revamp Turkey's wretched economy. Regarded on of US closest allies and the sole NATO Muslim- state member, the US supports Turkey's dominance. The strategic reasoning behind this assertion is oblivious "a surrogate for their interests in this vital strategic region ". Turkey has manifested a very imperative role in bolstering US overpower the ominously emergent radical Islamic fundamentalism. Concessions, charity and clemency toward Turkey was so mammoth that even some allied and western countries brushed off Turkey's human rights manipulations, repression of its Kurdish and other ethnic minorities and the recognition of Armenians Genocide.

Despite all that empathy, when need arose to liberate Iraqi masses suffering under the rule of despotism, Turkish lawmakers had faced overwhelming public opposition to basing U.S. troops on Turkish soil. The defeat of the resolution was an unexpectedly stunning political blow. The rejection response to the US to deploy its troops was the worse type of nightmare stupefying Washington. When acting time loomed, The Turks dumped their allies and overlooked about the past. Up to date, Turkey's unilateral military operations, regional intimidation and, go-ahead to terrorists' infiltration continue to undermine US efforts in settling that country...

And the most jolting of all was the recent Turkish Foreign Minister's official meeting with the exile political leader of Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas. Staggeringly, it cooked up an angry exchange of words between the two. Israel strongly condemned this visit and stated that it may drastically hurt Turkish strong ties with the Jewish State. The affairs, which are underpinned by well-built armed teamwork, had already come under strain over Erdogan's contentions two years ago that Israel was diligent in state terrorism opposed to the Palestinians. The United States and the European Union, which Turkey wants to join, describe Hamas as a terrorist group. Turkey's decision to step out of line with U.S. and EU policies may earn it praise in the Muslim world, but will likely damage its image with its Western allies. President Bush has repeatedly avowed that "we shall make no distinctions between terrorists and the country harboring them"

Of course, Turkey's main military supplier is the United States. Eighty percent of Turkey's weapons imports are stamped MADE IN THE U.S.A. and, over the last decade, Ankara received more than $12 billion in direct and indirect U.S. military assistance and this figure is expected to raise even larger.

Over the next twenty years, Turkey plans to spend an astonishing $150 billion to modernize its military. U.S. arms manufacturers will continue to lobby hard for these lucrative sales.

In response to Turkish concerns about the potential for further political and economic destabilization in the wake of an attack on Iraq, Turkey was proposed an expansive free-trade agreement between Turkey and the United States; a first step in that direction was already evident in the form of a Senate bill, sponsored by Senators John Breaux and John McCain and boosted by the formed, three-dozen-strong bipartisan American-Turkish Caucus on Capitol Hill, that would let Turkish textiles into the United States duty-free via Israel. A US Senate resolution marking the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Turks was also squashed.

The Turkish state that developed out of the former Ottoman Empire after World War I, it has been extremely brutal towards "the people." The biggest ethnic minority (the Kurds), for example, denied even existence after the earliest days (they were "mountain Turks"), and subjected to extreme repression to the present. Some of the worst human rights violations anywhere in the 1990s were the Turkish counterinsurgency operations against the Kurds. And Turks have suffered terribly too under regime repression. It's also very misleading, to put it mildly, to say, for example, that horrendous torture of dissidents and denial of even the most elementary rights to Kurds (let alone what happened mainly in the 90s: destroying 3500 villages, devastating the countryside, killing tens of thousands, and creating probably millions of refugees) was following the orders. Turkey should not be justified to endlessly repress its 25 million Kurdish populations under the pretext of eliminating PKK.

The Allies should revise their policies and reevaluate Turkey's irrepressible military enlargement. Turkey is bluntly and unhesitatingly opening welcome doors to terrorist organizations. There is no question about a greedy and belligerent regime not involved in pursuing nuclear access? It is time for the Allies to reshape their strategic environment by dwindling, containing and even rolling back Turkey before it gets out of handling.

By: Prof Goran Nowicki:

Kurdistan Iran policy II: Aczmaz

In the first part of this article [1], I gave a short overview of the Kurdish and Persian relations in its historical context. For shaping a strategy and spelling a set of policies in regards to Iran one needs to analyze the behaviour of the Iranian regime and its game plan in the region. In this article, I also touch upon my past article [2] criticizing US Iraq policy.

THE PERSIAN GAME

"Aczmaz" is a defensive strategy in chess for paralysing your opponent in order to prevent him moving some of his pieces in the chessboard and endangering his king. This is a strategy very often used by the Iranian regime in its regional game.

According to Muhammad Javad Larijani, the influential member of Iran's Security council and member of Foreign affairs committee in Iranian Parliament, Iran follows an "Achmaz" policy in regards to Azerbaijan, by using Armenia as its ally. In other words, Azerbaijan is kept busy with Armenia to prevent any claim to the highly populated of Azeri regions in Iran. By this policy, Iran and Armenia make sure that Turkey is deprived of any contact with Turkic speaking region.
[Garrusi 2000].

This is the same strategy that Iran uses in Iraq now and I warned the US policymakers before their invasion of Iraq. But who is Larijani?

One should not confuse Mohammad Javad Larijani, with the present Iranian envoy Larijani who visited Egypt this month and who was defeated by Ahmanijad in the recent presidential elections in Iran. Mohammad Javad himself failed to become Iranian foreign minister when another cleric Nateq Nuri was defeated by Khatami in Iranian presidential elections.

This Berkeley university drop out, played a key role in normalizing relations with the UK, and after the Nick Brown's scandal and the role that he played in it, he has been forced by the media to shine the spotlight and let his other brother to take the lead. The two Larijani are brothers and part of the right wing conservative ruling clergy network in Iran. In this network, they are closely related to Ayatollah Amoli, a senior cleric in Iran who has ambitions for Iranian leadership after Khamenei.

One should also take into consideration that Larijani brothers lived a good part of their lives in Iraq and are fully versed in Iraq's politics.

THE COUNTERMOVE TO ACZMAZ

For every move there is a countermove and someone should point that countermove to US policymakers. Kurds can help US to open this guardian knot for US if US policymakers appreciate the value of Kurdish players in the balance of the power in the region and stop sending confusing signals to Kurds and acting as unreliable friends.

Kurds risked their lives in Iraq war and after victory had expectations, unfortunately US dragged its feet and failed to fully support their right to expand their territory to include Kirkuk and other Kurdish cities, and as a result US damaged its own credibility and its own interests. For "a carpet seller" it is as if the US cheque bounced back and US lost some credibility. Let us remind US that if someone's cheques bounces back in a carpet Bazaar, people stop dealing with them. Now I hear "US keeps its word" said President Bush this week in Baghdad to the Shiites.

The Aczmaz that US is in Iraq is partly because US decided to put Kurds in Aczmaz of Kirkuk and by doing this created an unstable situation for its number one ally in Iraq. This is why now US is dependent on the good will of the Shiite allies of Iran and caught in the Iran's trap.

Yesterday Iran was the axis of evil and today Miss Rice is dancing with the evil and turning Iran into the dominant power in the region. David Ignatius and Fareed Zakaria asked the following related question on blog of Washingtonpost (http://blog.washingtonpost.com/postgloba l/):

"If Iran becomes the dominant regional power in the Middle East, the region will be safer and more stable. True or false?"

One of the replies in the main page is by S. Magi [4] which argues:

"The US policymakers are taking self defeating moves in the region and are losing whatever they have gained in the cold war by helping Iran to export its revolution in the region. After Iraq, Jordan and Gulf Arab countries will be the target of Iran's revolution and then US and Israel will feel the real heat. The US rational for this is to stabilize Iraq and to prevent Iran from getting closer to the reemerging eastern block (China-Russia). But there is no guarantee that Iran after dominating the region will not join Russian axis since together they can control Caucasus. Russia and Iran in control of oil resources of Persian Gulf and Caucasus can effectively dominate the world. ... "

The Kurdish pre-pivot passway proposed in [4] is the countermove to US Aczmaz by Iran in Iraq. The article concludes that "With the help of Kurds, Tehran will fall in less than one week if US overcomes its fears" [3]. In order to achieve this objective, US needs to remove the Kirkuk Aczmaz first.

REFERENCE

[1] G. Nowicki, Kurdistan Iran Policy, Kurdistan Observer, 14 May 2006.

[2] G. Nowicki, A Critique of US Iraq Policy, Kurdistan Observer, 19 Dec 2005.

[3] S. Magi, Reply to D. Ignatius and F. Zakaria, Washingtonpost Blog,
http://blog.washingtonpost.com/postglobal/2006/06/14/iran_the_stabilizer/comments.html#c435307

By: Prof Goran Nowicki:

Kurdistan Iran policy

Many researchers have looked at aspects of US, Turkish, Iraqi and Iranian policies towards Kurds. With the development in the regions and the establishment of the Kurdistan administration in Erbil, one can now discuss the Kurdistan's Turkish policy or Kurdistan's Iran policy. In this article, I look at some aspects of Kurdish Iran policy in the context of the looming US war against Iran.

KURDS AND PERSIANS

In [1], I looked at some history of Kurdish and Persian relations before the arrival of Turks in the region. One can divide the era roughly into:

1) Mitanni-Assyrian era (1600-800 BC) before the appearance of Persians in the region and the later domination of Kurdish regions by Assyrians.

2) Medes-Persian era (800-331 BC) when the Persians appeared in the region and the later domination of Medes empire by Persian kings and replacement of Medes Mithraism with Persian Zora sterism as state religion.

3) Greek-Roman era (331BC-363AD) when Kurdish regions was part of or neighbor to European powers until the defeat of Julian.

4) Persian era (363-636 AD) when Persians dominated Kurdistan again.

5) Arab-Kurd era (636-1040 AD) when Arab Islamic dynasties dominated and later establishment of Kurdish principalities.

6) Turkish-Persian empires (1040-now) arrival of Mongols and Turks in the region and establishment of Turkish dynasties (e.g. Seljuk, Ottomans).

Historians refer to Chalduran battle (1514 AD) between Ottomans Turks and Safavid Persians as the first division of Kurdistan. But going back to history one can find traces of temporary independence of Kurds from Persians and the division of Kurdistan between the Romans and Persians. For example the historians accompanying Julian, the Roman emperor in his failed campaign against Persia (363 AD) clearly refer to Kurdistan [2] in east of Tigris as the friendly country that the Romans can withdraw before their defeat by Persians.

This testimony by Julian's companions is significant because it marks not only the beginning of Kurdish European friendly relations but it is also one of the first instances of Independent Kurdistan's Iranian policy after the failed union of Medes an d Persians.

This evidence also may suggest that the Kurdish regions until 363 AD were still worshipping Mitra and their friendly relations towards Julian may have been because of the religious faith of Julian and his respect and worship of Mitra. Historians suggest that Julian may have been assassinated by one his own Galilean troops because of his religion and his bold attempt to revive
the Mithraism in Roman empire.

When the Ottoman Turks arrived, they crushed the last traces of Roman eastern empire in Anatolia and the Kurds warmed up to these new neighbors who were Sunni like Kurds. So one can analyze the Ottoman-Kurdish relations as the consequence of the re-emergence of the pattern of Roman era Kurdistan's Iranian policy.

KURDISTAN NEW BORDERS

The WW I disintegrated the Ottoman empire and the French-British Sykes-Picot agreement (1916) tried to impose new artificial borders in the middle east region. The later establishment of Iraq modified the Sykes-Picot plan and created an unstable and artificial country. The British mastermind of Iraq project, Miss Gertrude Bell (1868-1926) committed suicide on July 12, 2 days short of her 58th birthday and long before seeing the results of her design [3].

To Sir Mark Sykes, the pre-WWI British Foreign Office Arabist, "that damned fool," Miss Bell, created an "uproar" wherever she went in the Middle East and was "the terror of the desert." [3]

With the fall of Saddam (the terror of Iraq) and the establishment of Kurdistan government, a new chapter in the history of Kurds has opened. The Kurdistan region which was chopped into 4 pieces in Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria in WWI has now a new chance for reunification of its regions. I highlighted two different scenarios for such unification in [4] and [1]. Depending on adopting the "Turkish centered policy" [1] or "Persian centered policy" [4], the Kurdistan's Iran policy and Kurdistan's Turkish policy will be formulated.

SOME THOUGHTS ON KURDISTAN IRAN POLICY

Kurdish Iran policy cannot be formulated without considering the Persian and Turkish state behavior in the region and the upcoming developments in the region. Currently, both Turks and Persians have adopted a hostile policy towards Kurdistan entity. Both governments in Turkey and Iran are pro-Islamist and at odds with US in the region. There is a possibility that the present Turkish government loose its present majority in the parliament or be overthrown by a coup. But such an internal development for Iranian regime is not foreseeable.

But by November 2006, some of the external ambiguities regarding Iran will be clarified. Whether US finally commits himself to attacking Iran by mid September will be finalized. This window of opportunity for Bush to attack Iran may close as soon as a democratic congress or Senate (or both) come into power in upcoming US elections.

If Bush attacks Iran in upcoming months then the Kurds will adopt a Turkish centered policy in the region. If instead he decides to go for a diplomatic solution, then the Kurdistan policy in the Kurds should adopt a Persian centered policy in the region that they have adopted for the past

Kurdish policy makers need to plan for the possibility of the war and be ready to act in the case of US-Iran war. Will they try to push to share power in Iranian capital or a liberated capital of the western region (e.g. Hamedan) or will they decide to watch other parties jockey for the power in Tehran and instead focus on Kurdish regions? In case Kurds are not present in Tehran's new regime, then the new pro-US regime in Iran will dwarf the importance of Kurds as a US ally in
the region.

Considering the 6 hours distance from Khaneqin to Tehran and the existence of no natural barrier such as mountain, desert or sea, the Kirmanshah-Tehran axis will be the central front for the attacks. Both the Northern front (Azerbaijan/Caspian) and Southern front (Persian Gulf) are farther away from the capital and facing natural barriers.

But in such a war, Bush will be a winner like the emperor Alexander and unlike the emperor Julian) considering the 70% percentage of Iranian population which are under 35 years and more than 90% of them are pro-American. If one adds the dissatisfied Iranian population above 35 years who are more passive, the percentage of pro regime-change by a US war will go up more than 90% of population. Such a war will put an end to Iran as the outlaw sanctuary for Al-Qaeda and groups
such as Hezbollah and states such as Syria and it will remove an atomic threat to the region.

In case Bush has no stomach for a new war with Iran, then the Kurds will continue their present passive "brotherly" and peaceful policy towards Iran and wait for the next presidential elections in US which may bring into power a new president with a plan for dividing Iraq into 3 states.

But as long as the threat of war is hanging over the head of Iran like a D amocles sword (over the next 2 years of Bush presidency), this brings new opportunities especially for the Kurds in Iran. And Kurds should bargain for more rights and possibly a UK style devolution of power to Kurdish provinces and region in Iran, if the Iranians are wise enough.

REFERENCE

[1] G. Nowicki, Turkey Playing with Fire II: Win Win Game, Kurdistan Observer, Mar 2006.

[2] E. Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1776.

[3] Desert Queen : The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell: Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia , by Janet Wallach, 1999.

[4] G. Nowicki, A New Chessboard of Middle East, Kurdistan Observer, May 2005

Dr. Hussein Tahiri:

Terrorism has no place in the Kurdish national struggle

In the current atmosphere, where terrorists are using the most barbaric methods to kill innocent people, linking the Kurdish national struggle to terrorism is a disservice to the legitimate Kurdish cause.

It was reported that on Sunday 10 July 2005, a bomb blast injured 20 people at seaside resort in West Turkey's town of Cesme, an Aegean Sea town popular with tourists.[1] Reuters reported that a Kurdish rebel group the Kurdistan Liberation Hawks (TAK) claimed responsibility for the attack.[2] It is believed that the TAK is a wing of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).[3] A previous bomb attack in the Aegean See resort of Kusadasi also was claimed by this organisation.[4]

The Kurds have been fighting for their legitimate rights for over 100 years. Despite the fact that they have been deprived of their basic human rights, they have never resorted to terrorism as a mean to publicise their cause or gain their rights. They have often been subjected to terrorism and the most horrific punishments. They know what it means to be terrorised and what it means for innocent children, women and men to be killed.

It would be a mistake for any Kurdish organisation to believe that through terrorising tourists or killings they can harm their enemy's economy or put pressure on the ruling states to force them into negotiations. The Kurds have been conducting armed struggle for over hundred years; they have killed and have themselves been killed. Unfortunately for the Kurds, the states ruling over Kurdistan recognise no value for human life, let alone human rights. The PKK has been fighting the Turkish state since 1984. During this period, it is estimated that around 37,000 people have been killed. Has the Turkish state even for once said let's stop these killings and negotiate? Has the Turkish state ever asked, what are your grievances? The same is applicable to other parts of Kurdistan. This indicates that armed struggle cannot be the solution to the Kurdish cause. It is time for the Kurdish national movements to look for alternative strategies to address the Kurdish question.

The Kurdish people should call upon the TAK to distance themselves from terrorism. If they are not involved in such activities, they should publicly say so and condemn it. In the current atmosphere, where terrorists are using the most barbaric methods to kill innocent people, linking the Kurdish national struggle to terrorism is a disservice to the legitimate Kurdish cause. Kurdish pride and honour has never allowed Kurdish freedom fighters to kill children, women and other innocent people. It has never been a part of Kurdish tradition and it should never be. Nothing can legitimise terrorism and the killing of innocent people.

References

1. BBC, 10 July 2005.
2. Reuters, 10 July 2005.
3. Ibid.
4. BBC, 10 July 2005.

The president of Kurdistan:

Barzani: If we want to establish our own state, no one can stop us

London; The President of Kurdistan, Massud Barzani, stated on Sunday, "We cannot accept a constitution that violates our [Kurdish] rights," emphasising that the Iraqi constitution must justify the sacrifices Kurds have made and the destruction that Kurds have had to endure. Barzani made his statement while addressing a group of religious leaders from Sulemani.

Barzani said that the most important issue is the constitution, and that they have not reached any conclusions yet as the negotiation are still going on. Regarding the Kurdish stance on their rights in the constitution, Barzani said that the Kurdish stance is clear and that they have put forward their project. He said that what is given is the Kurdish stance and if others do not accept it then that is up to them. "But we are serious about it," the Kurdish President added.

Barzani noted that writing the constitution is a good opportunity for Kurds to make sure that it reflects the Kurdish rights, underlining the importance of ensuring that the mistakes of the last century, when the state of Iraq was established, are rectified.

Barzani also expressed his genuine surprise to the stance of some circles who believe that Kurds do not deserve Federalism as a solution to the Kurdish question. "We have the right to establish our own state", Barzani made clear. He said whenever we want to establish a Kurdish state "No one can stop us", underlining the point that, "When we only want Federalism, they [those circles] should be grateful."

Barzani stated that he has great respect for all other ethnic groups, but that there are two main peoples in Iraq: Kurds and Arabs, adding, "We are equals. We are not a minority." Barzani emphasised that Iraq must be re-built on the voluntary agreement of the Kurds and Arabs.

On the Kirkuk issue, the Kurdish President stated that Kurds renewed fighting with the government in 1974 because of Kirkuk. "All other issues were resolved, except for Kirkuk," he said, adding "Kirkuk must come back to Kurdistan."

Barzani said that in 1974 Mustafa Barzani, then the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), told the Baath officials that the Iraqi government occupied Kirkuk, and whenever possible Kurds would liberate it. Mustafa Barzani told the Baathist negotiators that they would not get him to sign the occupation of Kirkuk to the Iraqi governorate.

Ako Bakhtiar:

Torture, execution, persecution of Kurds in Iran

The brutal torture of local activist Shwana Sayid Qadir by Iranian security agents has echoed in the Kurdistan world and led to angry rally and furious reactions among the Kurdish residents in Mahabad, West Azerbaijan Province and else where. Shwana was under lingering acts of torture until he died. He was held in solitary confinement and denied food and medical in order to force confession. Iranian prison facilities are the most notorious for the cruel and prolonged suffering inflicted upon political Kurdish opponents of the Government. Common methods of torture include suspension for long periods in contorted positions, burning with cigarettes, sleep deprivation, and, most frequently, severe and repeated beatings with cables or other instruments on the back and on the soles of the feet. Prisoners also have reported beatings about the ears, inducing partial or complete deafness, and punching in the eyes, leading to partial or complete blindness. The merciless depiction of the victim ( Shawna Sayid ) reveals to the world the scope of carnage that the Islamic republic is behind versus the innocent people of Kurdistan.

After the US occupation of Iraq, Iran has tried to join in a neutral role but it directly and indirectly interferes in the internal affairs of Iraq and should be blamed partially for the ongoing chaos. History proves that the Kurds have constantly played a constructive and patriotic role in both pre and post-revolution but always been betrayed, denied their basic rights and given promises that were never kept. The treachery by Shaw of Iran in withdrawing support for the Kurdish rebellion following the Algiers accord, the vow of autonomy in return for support against the Shah before the triumph of the Islamic Revolution and the ascent of Ayatollah Khomeini, the 1979 Khomeini's declaration of a holy war against the Kurds that followed the brutal annihilation of Kurdistan and the assassination of Kurdish political leaders are some of the reliable evidences. Kurds were not interested in being part of an Islamic State and found the upheaval generated by the collapse of the central government to be an opportune moment to establish their own sovereignty.


What about Iran's credibility from a global standpoint? The endowment of the honorary tile of "axle of evil" with the prideful status for remaining the most active state sponsor of terrorism? Iran provides increasing support to numerous terrorist groups, including the Lebanese Hezbollah, HAMAS, and the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), which seek to undermine the Middle East peace negotiations through the use of terrorism. Iran grants refugee to fleeing Al- Qaeda members, provides logistic and financial support and facilitates the movement of terrorists escaping from Afghanistan into Iraq to destabilize the order. The Islamic regime continues to unabatedly violate human rights for maintenance of state power. Countless reports from a wide range of sources indicate that no significant changes towards greater human rights have occurred since the Islamic regime took power. The adverse social and economic situation leading to protests are directly linked to the political situation. Many turn to political activities in order to improve their lives. The Islamic regime fears its overthrow in any such opposition and responds with its usual force and brutality. It is obvious that almost two decades of systematic suppression have changed the nature of political activity. Yet human desires for a better life can never be stifled and people in Iran continue to protest and oppose the regime in different ways.


We condemn this act by the Iranian regime as an immense crime against humanity and genocide. Our hearts go out to the family of victim and we share deeply in their grief. Reactionary states and organizations have made terrorism a stable aspect of life in our era. We believe that through people's power, we can and must put an end to state and non-state terrorism. Other than its direct unimaginable criminal dimensions, it is clear to us that this occurrence is just a preface to the further escalation of a global terrorist contest. It is a dark day - a prelude to more calamities. We call on people to come to the fore and take the world in their own hands. The world must be taken out of the hands of fanatic Islamic fundamentalists and terrorists.

Steve Tataii:

Kirkuk, Federalism-Independence, Kurdish national oil, and Peshmarga.

By: Steve Tataii

Kirkuk, Federalism-Independence, Kurdish national oil, and Peshmarga.

My final crucial article before the Con-Cons Aug 15 deadline or onward

1- Kirkuk and all of its surrounding sub-divisions are, have been, and must always remain to be recognized as a part of South Kurdistans territory and this must be recognized as a permanent clause in the Iraqs Constitutions draft.

2- The right to Self-Determination, and to declare an Official Kurdish state in the near future by Kurdish Parliament and President of Kurdistan is not negotiable, and must be added as a permanent clause in the Iraqs Constitutions draft.

3- Pehsmarga is, has been, and always will remain to be the Kurdish national defense army without being forced to join Arab military units, and this must be noted as a permanent clause in the Iraqs Constitutions draft.

4- The Kurdish oil revenues from Kirkik and other Kurdish territories belong to Kurds, and must be administered by Kurdish nation through its sovereign Kurdish regional or Independent States government. This must be added as a permanent Clause in the Iraqs Constitutions draft.

Steve Tataii, U.S. Congressman since the 2002 elections

tataii@msn.com

Website (not updated) http://tataiiforcongress.com

Giles Vicker:

Syrian Relations with the Iraqi Baath Party: (the twin-regimes of terrorism)

By: Giles Vicker

Syrian Relations with the Iraqi Baath Party: Using the same fascist means in an extreme competition to rule over the Arab countries while claming the highest level of hater to the US and the West. Starting mid 90's, the Syrian regime started smuggling Iraqi oil in violation of the United Nations' resolutions. This enabled Saddam Husein's regime to survive longer and helped selling its oil for weapons that were used later against the US and the allied troops.

Saddam of Iraq vs Asad of Syria
The Twin-regimes of Terrorism

Saddam Housain, Ex-dictator of Iraq
Officer Saddam Hussein seized power in 1979 leading the Baath Arab Party of Iraq.

Asad Family, Dictators of Syria
Officer Hafez Assad seized power in 1970 leading the Baath Arab Party of Syria.

Baath Totalitarian Regime in Iraq:
The Baath party gradually took over political and economical life in Iraq and became the only legal party in the country. Iraq is a republic by constitution, but the Socialist totalitarian regime was governing the nation.

Baath Totalitarian Regime in Syria:
The Baath party gradually took over political and economical life in Syria and became the only legal party in the country. Syria is a republic by constitution, but the Socialist totalitarian regime is governing the nation

Baath Rule of Iraq:
The opposition figures were persecuted, arrested, executed and even assassinated abroad. Iraq became a police-state ruled by fear and brutality.

The dictator of Iraq was running fake elections were he was 're-elected' as president with 99.99% of the votes for consecutive terms until he was overthrown in April 2003.

Baath Rule of Syria:

The opposition figures were persecuted, arrested, executed and even assassinated abroad. Syria became a police-state ruled by fear and brutality.

The dictator of Syria was running fake elections were he was 're-elected' as president with 99.99% of the votes for consecutive terms until he died in 2000. His son Bashar inherited his father's position and policy in 2000 and started his own 99%-vote elections.

Iraqi Crimes against people of Iraq:
In addition to regular persecution, mass military operations were carried against Iraqis who oppose regime. In 1987 the baath regime killed thousands of Kurds in Northern Iraq using chemical weapons. In 1992 the regime massacred thousands of opposition Shaiis in Southern Iraq and thousands of Kurds in Northern Iraq destroying whole cities and villages.

Syrian Crimes against people of Syria:
In addition to regular persecution, mass military operations were carried against Syrians who oppose the regime. In 1980 the baath regime killed thousands of Syrians in Tadmor prisons and in the city of Hama. In 1982, the regime massacred more than thirty thousands of Syrians by completely destroying the city of Hama in full aerial and land attacks.

Occupying its small neighboring country of Kuwait:

Iraq is, roughly, 20 times larger than Kuwait

600 Kuwaitis believed to be killed in Iraqi prisons

On August 2, 1990, the Iraqi regime occupied its small neighboring country of Kuwait and appointed a puppet pro-Iraqi government there.

Hundreds of Kuwaitis civilians were killed or captured and spent their lives in Iraqi prisons until they died. The US and the International community lead a military coalition that liberated Kuwait on February 25, 1991.

Occupying its small neighboring country of Lebanon:

Syria is, roughly, 20 times larger than Lebanon

18,000 Lebanese believed to be killed in Syrian prisons

On October 13, 1990, the Syrian regime completely occupied its small neighboring country of Lebanon and appointed a puppet pro-Syrian government there.

Thousands of Lebanese civilians were killed or captured and spent their lives in Syrian prisons until they died. The US and the International community were busy with the Iraqi situation, which left Syria occupying Lebanon until this moment.

Iraqi Links to Terrorist Groups:
Uncertain relations to some terrorist groups, encouraged terrorist activities against the United States and West-European countries since 1990.

Syrian Links to Terrorist Groups:
Syria founded and sponsored several terrorist groups in self-occupied Lebanon and in Syria. Syrian sponsored groups carried several suicide attacks against Americans, West-Europeans and Lebanese since 1980's killing hundreds. The Syrian regime has founded and sponsored terrorists that mastered hostage-taking and hijacking against American and West-European nationals and civil airplanes. Eleven terrorist groups listed in the US State Department use the Syrian capital as a headquarter.

Iraq Crimes against humanity:
Using WMD against Iraqi people
Massacring civilian Iraqis and civilian Kuwaitis in Iraq and occupied Kuwait
Detaining, torturing and killing thousands of prisoners in Iraq and Kuwait

Syria Crimes against humanity:
Using WMD against Syrian and Lebanese prisoners Massacring civilian Syrians and civilian Lebanese in Syria and occupied Lebanon Detaining, torturing and killing thousands of prisoners in Syria and Lebanon

Iraqi Relations with the Syrian Baath Party:

Using the same fascist means in an extreme competition to rule over the Arab countries while claming the highest level of hater to the US and the West.

Syrian Relations with the Iraqi Baath Party:
Using the same fascist means in an extreme competition to rule over the Arab countries while claming the highest level of hater to the US and the West.
Starting mid 90's, the Syrian regime started smuggling Iraqi oil in violation of the United Nations' resolutions. This enabled Saddam Husein's regime to survive longer and helped selling its oil for weapons that were used later against the US and the allied troops. During the war of liberating Iraq, the Syrian totalitarian regime feared being the next tyranny to fall and supported Saddam's troops by sending arms and paying mercenaries to fight against the US and the allied troops. The Syrian Foreign Minister announced that it is "Syrian national interest for the Allied troops to be defeated"

Iraq Misleading media

Mohammed al-Sahhaf

Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, the information minister of Saddam's regime gave a descriptive example of the ways in which totalitarian regimes deceive the international community. His rhetoric speeches during the war claming false victory and claiming the support of Iraqis for Suddam were ridiculed by the actual events. Later, the world saw the real face of Saddam's Regime 'deceiving but nicely- phrased lies.'

Syria Misleading media

Farouk Sharaa

The Syrian totalitarian regime keeps deceiving the world with rhetoric speeches about their kindness and proclaimed popularity. Nowadays, some governments in the free world still listen to the Sahhafs of Asad's regime, such as Foreign Minister Farouk Sharaa and the director of the foreign media department Buthina Shabaan. The Syrians are awaiting the fall of their dictatorship to show the world how much it was deceived by some nicely-phrased lies.

Statue of Saddam

After the collapse of Saddam's regime, the Iraqi people celebrated the dictator's overthrown by destroying his numerous statues that were placed in every corner, and were guarded by the secrete service security.

Statue of Assad

Awaiting the collapse of Asad's regime, the Syrians dare not but pay respect to his numerous statues that are placed in every corner, and guarded by the secrete service security. The statues of the Syrian dictator in Syria outnumbers those of Saddam's in Iraq

Khalid Salih:

Kurdistan's future

Khaled Salih

Politicians, analysts and ordinary people are concerned about the future of Iraq, especially with the prospect of heightened internal fighting between Shi'ite and Sunni groups. No doubt this process will have repercussions for the future of Kurdistan in Iraq. In fact, the fate of Kurdistan is directly related to political and security developments in the Arab part of Iraq.

State-building in Iraq has already failed. The process took a definitive turn for the worse when Saddam Hussein took over in 1979. Many specialists and commentators argued that Saddam Hussein strengthened Iraq, but in fact he contributed to an accelerated process of state failure. In addition to strong centralization of state power, Saddam Hussein initiated a gradual fragmentation of Iraq as a country by alienating the Kurds and Shi'ites.

His invasion, occupation and annexation of Kuwait led to the creation of the no-fly zones in the north and the south in 1992. Much of Kurdistan proper was transformed into an independent entity, politically and administratively. A gradual de facto separation of the majority of the Kurdistan population from the rest of Iraq became a political reality. Separate political institutions (parliament, regional government and political parties), infrastructure, security arrangements and economic development all contributed to this process.

However, with the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime the rules of the game changed. While Arab Iraq collapsed in terms of political authority and administration, Kurdistan maintained its institutions, police and security forces and sustained its economic development. While the Bush administration talked about "regime change" and "nation-building", the actual process since mid-2003 has been about how to rebuild the state in Iraq. Kurdish politicians, too, have been involved in reconstructing Iraq, whether they realize, recognize or deny it.

This has been important for Kurdistan on two levels. First, Kurdish politicians have managed to protect Kurdistan and its achievements since 1992. In historical terms this is remarkable, because this is the first time in centuries the Kurds have not been the first to lose out on a major change sweeping the Middle East. Second, political negotiations in Baghdad have made it possible for Kurdistan to share in the distribution of power, reconstruction aid and revenues. In this process, Kurdistan's politicians thus far have been able to secure both Kurdistan's self-rule and its shared rule over the rest of Iraq.

Now, when the prospect of state rebuilding in Iraq does not look very promising and fear of further collapse of the reconstruction process is becoming paramount, the people of Kurdistan are anxiously watching events and pondering Kurdistan's fate in the event Iraq falls apart. Several issues are at stake. First, the future status of the region as recognized now in the permanent constitution will be jeopardized because the constitution, though approved by a majority of voters in Iraq, will not come into effect before a new government is sworn in and, meanwhile, the constitutional state is not yet fully consolidated.

Second, the fate of the Arabized regions, including Kirkuk, will lead to a serious confrontation between Kurdish groups and Arab groups. In such a scenario, neighboring countries are likely to encourage and support different factions. We are likely to see Turkey assisting Turkmen groups, Iran assisting Shi'ite and particularly Sadrist activists in Kirkuk, and Syria assisting Sunni Arabs throughout the region. Inter-communal and sectarian tensions and confrontations are a likely outcome of such a development.

Third, Kurdistan's share of income, such as aid reconstruction and oil revenues, is likely to be put on hold. In a worst case scenario, neighboring countries will prove more than willing to encourage and support Kurdish schisms in an effort to undermine ongoing institution-building in Kurdistan. Direct financial and military support to radical Islamic groups and small Turkmen groups will exacerbate any internal disagreement among political groups in Kurdistan. If current security arrangements and political deals crumble, we might witness divisions along party, territorial and economic lines, more or less resembling the fighting of the mid-1990s, with additional groups across the borders joining in (the PKK from Turkey and Jihadists from Arab Iraq and Kurdistan).

But the political leadership in Kurdistan could also somehow manage to sustain current trends and keep Kurdistan safe, secure and stable. For this to happen it would have to avoid institutional breakdown, disengage from political negotiations in Baghdad without alienating the Americans, and adhere to internal political deals. In this event, Kurdistan in Iraq might emerge as a prosperous entity on which coalition forces could rely in a regional context, as well as an ally for Turkey and NATO. Tensions in Kirkuk and other Arabized territories might be solved more peacefully than we anticipate, due in part to strong unity among Kurds and disunity among Arabs, but also because American officials come to realize that a safe and secure portion of Iraq is a better scenario than the whole of Iraq sinking into internal conflict.- Published 30/3/2006 © bitterlemons-international.org

Khaled Salih is a senior lecturer in Middle East politics at the University of Southern Denmark. He is coeditor (with Brendan O'Leary and John McGarry) of The Future of Kurdistan in Iraq (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005).

Three Books by: Steve Tataii, U.S. Representative Candidate in the 2002 elections:

Iraq Wars: Iraq Wars: The consequences of 22 Independent Arab States, 3 Persian States, and 6 Turkic States, but not even one official Independent Kurdish State out of the 4 unjustly partitioned and invaded since the failed 1920's Treaty of Serves!

please visit www.klawrojna.com

smooth811:

The U.S. wants an Iraq that is not hostile to it, as was Saddam's Iraq. That is why the U.S. removed Saddam. Without assurance that dividing Iraq up sectarianly would not result in any of the sectarian parts being hostile to the U.S., that is not a direction the U.S. should embrace. Of course, the U.S. may not have a choice.

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