Olivier Roy at PostGlobal

Olivier Roy

Paris, France

Olivier Roy is a senior researcher at the CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research). He currently lectures at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) and the Institut d'Etudes Politiques (IEP) in Paris and has acted as consultant to the French Foreign Ministry (Center for Analysis and Forecast) since 1984. Olivier Roy was also a consultant with UNOCA on Afghanistan in 1988, special OSCE representative to Tajikistan (August 1993 to February 1994) and headed the OSCE Mission for Tajikistan from February to October 1994. He is also the author of Globalized Islam, published by Columbia University Press. Close.

Olivier Roy

Paris, France

Olivier Roy is a senior researcher at the CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research). more »

Main Page | Olivier Roy Archives | PostGlobal Archives

Dividing Iraq Will Exacerbate Regional Tensions

Paris, France - Iraq would not be better off if divided since Iraq would be no more. And what of the Iraqis? I say they probably will not be better off because the fighting will go on under new banners....

» Back to full entry

All Comments (17)

kpfqzbx dixgkmtcq:

emqiwfk equkcj zvqh tcpje efhum blmfewij ndhoe

qzal mkfcq:

pwhyctjdm ylwtkujc lncibe rlkjia zplfbwu pdbz kqet

qzal mkfcq:

pwhyctjdm ylwtkujc lncibe rlkjia zplfbwu pdbz kqet

qzal mkfcq:

pwhyctjdm ylwtkujc lncibe rlkjia zplfbwu pdbz kqet

qzal mkfcq:

pwhyctjdm ylwtkujc lncibe rlkjia zplfbwu pdbz kqet

crxfjl kfbyt:

lkujavnhd zpbqaky ijpyrsl ofuwyzgc oknxvuibc ofysip hages

Albert Leachman:

Google is the best search engine Google

Mary Adams:

Google is the best search engine Google

By Aran Arzepi:

Can the Kurds be ignored this time?

The Kurds are the third major nation in the Middle East without their own state. Therefore Kurdish issue can not be ignored; otherwise it is a potential risk for the entire region unless a reasonable solution is found.

The southern Kurds are struggling for democracy. There is no doubt about their determination for establishing their own independent state. However, the Kurds are more aware of the international political conjuncture than ever. As a result, their demand is a federal solution with a democratic united Iraq, where they can live unreservedly by the recognition of the international community.

Subsequent to the first World War, the Kurds made a great effort for an independent state. There had been several attempts towards independence. However, international dominance did not support the Kurds to protect their homeland. The Kurds were not even granted any political rights that could protect them against the countries where they had been left defenceless under the nationalist and ignorant regimes of Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a new era has begun. This era has similarities with the post World War I period. The winners of WWI were England and France. Today the same actors with new combinations are on the stage again. America is the world's super power and police. Great Britain, which was America's former ruler, is seeking a place next to it to secure its own interests. France and Russia are challenging to protect their own interests while implementation of the new world order is "in making". Germany is still under pressure because of its mischievous attitude in the past. Turkey is once more the "sick man of Europe". Iraq is a patched up country that may fall apart quite soon. On the other hand, Kurds are still fighting for their freedom.

The Kurds have faced every kind of terror. They have been forced to live under dictatorships, been massacred, assimilated but also ignored. Despite all of these negative steps, Kurds are again in the hunt for their rights. Unlike post WWI, they are well prepared with their own intellectuals, institutions, political parties, democratic foundations etc. Kurds want to initiate stability in the region by offering a secular and federal democratic state. If the super powers really want democratic countries in the region, why shouldn't the Kurds be counted on as a prototype?

The Kurds are a strong candidate for regional stability. Kurdish challenge for self determination is in need of international community's support. The Kurdish nation, one of the ancient nations of the region, would be the best model for the expected democratic changes in the countries of the region. The only thing they are asking for is to be recognized, to be considered as human beings like every other nation of the world.

Kani Xulam:

What is happening in Turkish-Kurdistan?

Most of the English-speaking world will, for the foreseeable future, associate July 7, 2005 London subway bombings with what happened here in America on 9-11. In the heart of Turkish occupied Kurdistan something else took place on that memorable July morning which was not noticed at first but later made it to Jay Leno's desk at ABC News as a joke. The Associated Press (AP) had reported the death of 450 sheep in Turkey. It had all happened when one of them had jumped headlong over a cliff overlooking a deep ravine. Others had simply followed suit. A number of Kurdish families had lost all their livestock. But neither the AP story nor Mr. Leno made any references to the Kurds or Kurdistan. Both were introduced to the world as Turks and Turkey. The Kurds suffered. The world laughed. I don't know what the Turks thought of this tragic event, at least for the Kurds, but all I could do was brood and wonder when the truths about the Kurds, or their sheep, will ever see the light of day. But then I hadn't yet read the "Meeting Notes" of Abdullah Ocalan from the island prison of Imrali.

I have since read them all, over 1,000 pages long, commanding as they do the attention of most of the Kurdish activists in Turkish-Kurdistan, whether one likes it or not, covering a span of six years, from 1999 to 2005, and now wonder if what the Kurdish owned sheep did on that forsaken Kurdish mountain was an omen of sort for what is happening in an equally frightening Turkish prison where those "Meeting Notes" were taken, assiduously I might add, by a group of lawyers who now report to the Kurdish leader, with the full blessings of the Turkish government, as his personal secretaries who are openly chastised and second guessed, by the prisoner, for their loyalties and professionalisms sometimes. What is going on in that dark place away from the eyes and ears of the Kurdish people? Who is concocting what, is it poison or medicine, which is meticulously administered on the Kurdish body politics? Have people forgotten that the desolate island has been declared a military zone, even the Turkish government doesn't have much to do with it, and the generals who run it think of the Kurds as nobodies who should always be dominated by their ilk? So when I finished reading the "Meeting Notes" of Mr. Ocalan and remembered what the Kurdish owned sheep had done, accidentally I want to note, I forgave Jay Leno for his politically incorrect transgression, thought nothing of the miniscule losses of the Kurdish farmers, and wondered aloud if the ABC News had missed the real joke, tragedy if you are a Kurd, that of the Kurdish leader and his supporters who are now committing another mass suicide, without an audience of laughers or criers on the part of the Kurds, the rest of the world, and even God.

"Many are the wonders of nature but nothing walks stranger than man," quips Sophocles in his play Antigone. I can't think of anyone else, in living memory at least, who comes close to Mr. Ocalan in embodying the truth of this observation. Apo, as his fans call him to this day, came to politics not through the social clubs or beer halls of the West as wannabes sometimes vie for the first place among their contemporaries, but the killing fields of Kurdistan and, in a span of fifteen years, rose to preeminence unequalled in the annals of the Kurdish politics. Sure, it was dangerous, treacherous, lonely, and heartbreaking too, but at the end, it was as much a personal struggle as it was a national one. To say that Mr. Ocalan failed miserably in the first test is an understatement. The make or break point came suddenly and unexpectedly on February 15, 1999 in Nairobi, Kenya. Cornered at a diplomatic compound, -- through an international conspiracy that gave the expression, politics makes strange bedfellows, a new meaning in life, -- he was ordered to surrender himself, alone, without his translator, to the Kenyan police. His aides told him it was the end of the road. One of them, apparently, offered him her gun. Mr. Ocalan balked. I guess he had never heard of the old admonition for the besieged, "No man who has a weapon in his hand should expect help from his feet." His feet took control of his brain. They took him to a waiting SUV in front of the building. The Kenyan police then took him to the waiting arms of the Turkish commandos at the airport.

The next day, the world got a glimpse of a video footage, courtesy of the Turkish government, in which he declared his, if needed, total allegiance to the Turkish state. To prove his sincerity, he made the world privy to a long held secret as well, and that was that his very mother, surprise, surprise, was Turkish. More than a few Kurds asked how come he had never volunteered this disarming tidbit in his countless interviews with the Turkish reporters. Others wondered, if he was copying another Turkish politician, Turgut Ozal, who had, in circumstances that one might consider also bizarre, stated that his mother, this time, was Kurdish. For a western audience this business of doing politics at the expense of one's mother or her identity must be very bizarre indeed. Not so in Turkey. But going back to our odyssey of Mr. Ocalan's untimely return to the land of his mother, it wasn't just the Kurds who were baffled by the turn of events and the telling pronouncements. William Safire, a columnist for the New York Times, a conditional friend of the Kurds, -- only when they fight the Arabs -- had predicted a defiant Ocalan with the courage of a martyr. He had even engaged in a political prophecy, the Kurdish leader would eclipse every other revolutionary, including the famed Che Guevara, as the idol of the rebellious youth in the world. He must have had in mind what Winston Churchill calls, "Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities." As it turned out, we were all deceived.

To be sure, Mr. Ocalan still thinks the world ganged up on him, and he has a right to this complaint, but what he did with that assault hardly crosses his mind. From his prison cell, he continues to lash out at Syrians for chasing him out of Damascus, the Greeks for betraying him in Athens, the Russians for denying him a sanctuary in Moscow, the Italians for violating the universal laws of hospitality in Rome, the Americans for blocking his way to a universal right called asylum, the Kenyans for acting as stooges of western intelligence agencies, the Israelis for being the midwives of evil in the Middle East, the Armenians for not letting him return to the mountains of Kurdistan from Tajikistan and the Kurds for not declaring him a God or worshipping him as such. The Turks, on the other hand, make an exception to these across the board withering criticisms. He loves them to death. And do you know what is even worse? He wants all the living Kurds to do the same. Not since Jesus walked on earth has the world seen so much love concentrate in the heart of one man against those who are implacably bent on his destruction. In fact, Mr. Ocalan has already urged his followers to write a four-volume biography of his life and title the last one, "While On the Cross". He also wants them to fly three flags over his gravesite. If you thought one of them would be Kurdish, you don't know Mr. Ocalan; if your guess was for a Turkish one; you are beginning to understand the man, or what has become of him in that forbidding prison.

But this flip-flop as we say in the United States or U-turn as the term goes in the United Kingdom has not come, for a man who is in his late fifties, without its costs. Just as his ideals have gone through changes, his heroes too have had to play their musical chairs. Those of you who have read some of his 500 plus books, that is the figure he dictates to his personal secretaries, will admit to his affinity for people like Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin up until his arrest. When he landed in Italy in November 1998 the Med TV hailed the news as, "Modern Spartacus has landed in Rome." Today, those names are no longer honored in the paeans of Mr. Ocalan. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk has taken over their place as a giant of a man knowledgeable on all things under the sun. The orphan of Tsaloniki, says Mr. Ocalan, was the embodiment of the ideology of Rousseau, the politics of Robespierre and the military genius of Napoleon. Reading the passage, you are left with the inescapable conclusion, and Mr. Ocalan is not even subtle about it, that it takes a genius, Mr. Ocalan, to recognize another one, Ataturk. When the Turkish state was on its knees, the Turkish general saved the day and did so with the help of the Kurdish tribal chiefs, he crows. Only two other Turkish figures were as visionary as Ataturk and they were Alparslan, who according to Mr. Ocalan, would never have made it to Anatolia from Central Asia without the help of the Kurds; and Yavuz Selim who sealed a strategic relationship with the Kurds to expand Ottoman power into Europe and Africa. These three periods were the glorious times in the history of the Turks, he muses, and the "fourth" is at hand, can be jumpstarted, if only Ankara paid some attention to him.

You are probably wondering what do the Turks make of these unwashed, sordid, and bewildering declarations of Mr. Ocalan. To say that they totally disregard them would be to repeat what they always do and that is that they don't talk to the "terrorists" or their leader. But I suspect there is more to these pronouncements than meets the eye. Mr. Ocalan has already noted, at least on several occasions, of a high-ranking Turkish official who confided in him, "Let's put an end to this game. The Greeks delivered you to us not as a favor, but to sow the seeds of a hundred year conflict between the Kurds and the Turks; let's stop this war of brothers." Mr. Ocalan then goes on to note, "I thought about it and decided to go along with it." Or when the same official, apparently, said, "We won't keep you here for long." To date, no Turkish official has stepped forward to confirm or deny these allegations. My own hunch is that these exchanges never took place, and if they did, they only prove that Mr. Ocalan is reliving his childhood again. I don't know how else to put this, but to state it the way it is, and that is Mr. Ocalan has had an uncanny ability to "imagine truths" and lead the Kurds on all kinds of fantasies, some successful and others suicidal in terms of their consequences. That is why these latest "imagined" stories of Mr. Ocalan, where Turks play magnanimous roles and the Kurds, poor simpletons who are easily manipulated by the Greeks, cannot have a basis in fact and will not, for long, hold a sway over the Kurdish masses. What they say for now though is that Mr. Ocalan has allowed himself to become the megaphone of the Turkish military against the Kurds.

I don't know about you, but as someone who has been cursed with a secondary school education in Turkey, I have lost sleep over Mr. Ocalan's choice of characters, as his favorites, from the annals of the Turkish history. The sleepless nights have paid off and I am here, to paraphrase the presidential hopeful John Kerry, to report to you that what Mr. Ocalan is doing is cherry picking at best or disingenuous to say the least. Ataturk gets the lion's share of his attention and most people would agree with him that he is betting on the right horse to ingratiate himself with the Turks. The Turks worship the man and Mr. Ocalan has now decided to join their ranks. His other two heroes are Alparslan and Yavuz Selim. The reason Mr. Ocalan likes these individuals has nothing to do with them per se, but everything to do with himself, and his everlasting desire to be free and lord over the Kurds again. Ataturk, says Mr. Ocalan, in addition to being a great statesman, was a magnanimous soul, for in the Turkish war of liberation, he freed a captured Greek general, Nikos Trikopis. But what he did to Shaikh Said, a Kurdish rebel, is conveniently brushed aside. Alparslan, Mr. Ocalan goes on to add, went even further and freed not a general, but a captured emperor, Romanus Diogenes. He doesn't say it, but makes you wonder, if Caesar did anything like it. Yavuz Selim, as far as I know, didn't forgive anybody; in fact, he is known to have beheaded some 40 thousand mostly Allawite Kurds, hence his nickname, Selim the Cruel, but the reader is left with the inference that the cooperation of the subjugated Kurds in the person of Idris of Bitlis with Yavuz Selim, -- the Kurdish collaborator's name never comes up, -- was what made the Turks great in the world. In other words, Mr. Ocalan wishes to be forgiven a la Ataturk and Alparslan so that he could serve the Turkish state a la Idris of Bitlis.

But this farce is already crumbling in spite of Mr. Ocalan's Herculean efforts and machinations. "Imagined truths" do not have a long span of life. In one of his periodical meetings with his lawyers, Mr. Ocalan talks about getting hate mail from the Turks. One of his newly "discovered" Turkish brothers has threatened him with a disease that will cause his skin to peel off leading to a slow and painful death. He tells his attorneys he is not feeling well and adds, ominously, his skin is coming off. He is wondering if something sinister is in the making. No one needs to second-guess Mr. Ocalan here for something sinister has been going on from the very beginning. This second act of his life, that started on a warm evening in Kenya or cold morning in Turkey, has seen, so far, extraordinary agility, breathless servility, outrageous pomposity, and worst of all, venomous reaction to everything Kurdish in the world. If wonders were named after humans as opposed to monuments, as they were in antiquity, I have no doubt in my mind that Mr. Ocalan would have qualified as the eighth wonder of the world. Just in case you are not fully convinced, let me shower you with a few of his other priceless gems from his latest "Meeting Notes." He now calls Kurdish nationalism the "cancer" of our times, and declaring himself a physician in the same sentence, has vowed to eradicate it from the face of the earth. Patriotic Kurds, he says should support Turkey, but if they support Kurdistan, he calls them "primitive nationalists." And in a low that will forever be associated with his name, he quotes the Turkish generals, his new buddies, to inform his supporters that Mr. Barzani and Mr. Talabani are "selling" their wives and daughters to the Turks in exchange for favors. Now I know why Cicero says, "Fear of all emotions is the most brutalizing," or what the psychologists call, "[It] drives people to madness." And if I could set aside Mr. Ocalan's half-cooked Kurdish-ness for a bit, I truly feel sorry for him as a human being.

I have finally made it to the end of my presentation. When Mr. Ocalan was free, alone among the Middle Eastern leaders, he loved forcing his associates to engage in self-criticism sessions in front of the video cameras reminiscent of what Mao did, apparently, with his party faithful, in his times. But Mr. Ocalan always exempted himself from those sometimes hilarious, often dreary, and always-repetitive self-condemnations. The other day, as I was getting ready to put together my thoughts for this conference, I had a flight of fancy and imagined him doing one himself, in front of the Kurdish people, and saying the following things. I hope you will find them instructive. I ask for your indulgence.

"To the people of Kurdistan,

"I apologized to the mothers of the Turkish soldiers at the outset of my trial and apparently left the impression that I did not care about your losses, the children of Kurdistan. I do. Belatedly, and sincerely, I extend you my apologies and condolences as well. Now that this misunderstanding is out of the way, I want to address you, as promised, on my shortcomings. I have had six years to reflect on them. There is no other word for it, I am one of the biggest liars in the history of Kurdistan. Most politicians are. But I went way overboard and lost track of what is proper and what is not. Last month, I read The Brother Karamazov by Dostoyevsky. I got stuck on page 43. I thought the Russian writer was talking about me. Because Dostoyevsky is a better writer than I am, I want to read you a short passage from it. It is from the address of Father Zossima to Fyodor Karamazov, the patriarch of the family whose life is chronicled in the novel. It is bitter, as true medicine often is, but it is good. Here is Father Zossima, 'The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to such a pass that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love, and in order to occupy and distract himself without love he gives way to passions, and coarse pleasures, sinks to bestiality in his vices, all from continual lying to other men and himself.' With my imagined truths, I am guilty of these charges as well. I have lost my way. I don't even know who I am. I have said I have the patent to Kurdish nationalism; nothing could be further from the truth. I have declared Ataturk the senior God and myself the junior; both are lies. I have said I support Turkey and oppose the liberation of Kurdistan; this qualifies for the father of all lies. James Madison once noted, 'There can be no doubt that there are subjects to which the capacities of the bulk of mankind are unequal.' He too, the founding father of America, has me in mind when he refers to the bulk of humankind. I thought I could outrun truth, science, skill and ability, but there is no such thing. Look where I am. It is not the place to be. I am truly sorry for the pain and suffering I have caused you. I ask for your forgiveness."

Azad Zakhoi:

The Turkish army and the Kurdish problem

In order to understand the attributes and practices of the Turkish Republic that is now in its eighty-second year, it is necessary to probe the past and present of the Turkish army. This is because Turkey's Middle East policies, its approach to the issue of Cyprus and to the European Union, its present regressive relations with the United States, and the intractability of the Kurdish problem can really only be understood by discussing the army.

Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the establishment of the new Republic was achieved through the organisation of the military "class". The Republic of 1923, its first parliament, government, and the 1924 constitution came into being through an administration that was dominated by the army and an ideology heavily stamped by nationalism and its own view of the law. This ideology developed in parallel with the increasing influence of Mustafa Kemal. The Misak-i Milli' (definition of the present-day national borders), and the slogans "How happy is one who may call himself a Turk" and "the Turk has no other friend than the Turk" became the chief underpinnings of this ideology.

In 1934, with the tenth anniversary speech given by Mustafa Kemal, through Ziya Gokalp and Esat Mahmut Karakurt's vision and efforts, this ideology was to regarded as the doctrine of Kemalism and its character stamped upon the way in which politics, the law, education, culture, social life and the economy were organised. Like every nationalist system, this system was also organised in relation to external fears. Its fundamental safeguard, was always considered to be the army. In particular, since the "Ittihat ve Terakki" the army had organised with vigour and carried out the Armenian massacre; having put down the Kurdish rebellions of Sheikh Said in 1925, the Agri-Zilan uprising of 1930 and the Dersim uprising of 1938, the military hereafter came to constitute an unstoppable and uncontrollable force. The resources of the country were henceforth devoted to it. Paranoia about the Kurds and the policy of denial intensified and with the military coups of May 1960, March 1971 and September 1980, the army took control of the government without having to give account to anyone. After a brief glance at the army's past we can return to today.

The Turkish army today - above and outside the law

Today, the Turkish army is the force that most benefits from the country's general resources and education. The organisation to receive the greatest share of the budget is the army. Perhaps it is also the only army in the world to have its own banks and holdings. In the name of the struggle against terrorism, it conceives of itself as being above the law and because its training is centred on Kemalist nationalism, it turns out national chauvinist cadres. Many of the decisions it takes are beyond the control of the law. Essentially, because its formation is one that is both outside and above the law, its very legality is debateable.

At the beginning of August 2005, following a meeting with a group of Turkish intellectuals, in the speech he gave in Diyarbakir, in saying that there was a Kurdish problem and in defending the view that it required to be resolved in a spirit of democracy, Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan created a groundswell of hope amongst Kurds. However, the retired Generals, Commander of the land forces along with the Commander of the First army went on the attack. Day after day they threatened the Kurds and the government on television. Former General, Veli Kucuk, additionally spoke of establishing a contra-guerrilla army and taking to the mountains. The military's ceremonies of 30 August turned into an overt display of militarism. Presentations of diplomas by the officers' schools for the army, the air-force, the navy and the gendarmerie were broadcast live on television for days.

During this same interval, Turkish chauvinists like Dogu Perincek and nationalist chauvinist journalists like Emin Colasan, the former Generals, the MHP and the Ankara Chambers of Trade and Commerce, and the young officers in the army, began to organise against the moderate Chief of Staff, Hilmi Ozkok, and against the government. They penned provocative tracts and spoke on television saying there wasn't in fact a Kurdish problem but solely a problem of terrorism. They voiced their calls to the people asking them to demonstrate their opposition to the United States and the European Union.

As can be gathered, in the shadow of an army that, in this way, is above the law and untouchable, the transition to democracy is no easy one. The Kurdish problem and resolution of the Cyprus issue is blocked by the army and can only be resolved with the army.

The army always represents itself to its members and to the public as the highest moral calling. Indeed this notion is repeated so frequently that it comes to take root in people's minds with the counter message that the rest of us in fact are of little worth. It is here that - if the army were to withdraw itself into the boundaries of democracy and human rights the problems could begin to be resolved. But such a withdrawal is no simple matter because democracy means that the army would lose its difference. The intelligence organisations that are entirely self-governing and which communicate intelligence only to themselves would cease to be. ASAM (Avrasya Strateji Arastirmalar Merkezi ), the Eurasia Strategy Research Centre that earns its money from declared disasters would also cease to be. However, the cessation of these entities, in essence, would mean the making of the army as a democratic institution, a force that was both more accountable and one that did not obstruct the civil will but conversely, fulfilled its wishes. In such a way, the mutually inciting violence of the PKK and the army would also cease.

Undoubtedly, from being in a situation in which the army is under pressure to attaining a stage in which it is able to play a flexible and positive role is linked to there being a period in which the internal violence is brought to an end. On the other hand, in order for the PKK to step back from violence, its opponents leaving the PKK should be supported and strengthened. Such an obligation not only falls upon the Kurds but also upon the United States, the Turkish Republic and the European Union.

In conclusion, over the past thirty years the Kurds have suffered bitterly. Violence and torture were used to an almost unconceivable extent. Twenty years of internal war were lived through. During this interval, Turkey lost a great deal both materially and spiritually, but in the end everything came right back to the beginning. The Kurds, whose very existence had been denied, were acknowleged, but as no firmly rooted solution to the problem had been found, matters continued as before in a vicious circle. The chauvinistic culture and education established by the Turkish Republic and the army meant that sadists were created and heads and noses were chopped off.

Currently, there is a positive and mature base from which to go forward. The developments in Iraqi Kurdistan are having an pronounced impact on Turkey. Rational circles in Turkey propose finding a solution to the Kurdish problem and engaging in friendly relations with Iraqi Kurdistan but despite the dawning of the Twenty-first century the Turkish-racist Generals are still intent upon solving the issue with bloodshed.

Peter W. Galbraith:

What Are We Holding Together?

Although it was certainly not his intention, George W. Bush broke up Iraq when he ordered the invasion in 2003. The United States not only removed Saddam Hussein, but it also smashed, and later dissolved, the institutions that enabled Iraq's Sunni Arab minority to rule the country: the army, the security services and the Baath Party. Kurdistan, free from Hussein's rule since 1991, moved to consolidate its de facto independence. Iraq's Shiites, suppressed since the founding of the Iraqi state, have created a theocracy in southern Iraq and have no intention of allowing a central government in Baghdad to roll it back. Iraq's new constitution merely ratifies this result.

There is no reason to mourn the passing of the unified Iraqi state. For Iraq's 80-year history, Sunni Arab dictators held the country together -- and kept themselves in power -- with brutal force that culminated in Hussein's genocide against the Kurds and mass killings of Shiites. As a moral matter, Iraq's Kurds are no less entitled to independence than are Lithuanians, Croatians or Palestinians. And if Iraq's Shiites want to run their own affairs, or even have their own state, on what democratic principle should they be denied? If the price of a unified Iraq is another dictatorship, it is too high a price to pay.

Iraq's Kurds, Shiites and Sunni Arabs do not share the common values and aspirations that are essential to building a unified state. The country's Kurds are avowedly secular and among the most pro-American people in the world. Almost unanimously they want nothing to do with Iraq. Iraq's Shiites, whether we like it or not, have voted overwhelmingly for pro-Iranian religious parties. Iraq's Sunni Arabs, through their own choice, boycotted the constitutional assembly. Some of the leaders who claim to speak for the Sunnis say they want a unified state, though it seems their real concern is that they no longer rule Iraq. Even if it had been done competently, American-led nation-building could not overcome these divisions.

The constitution accommodates all three groups. Each can have its own region. Except for a few matters in the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government, regional law prevails. Thus Kurdistan can continue to be secular while the Shiites can create an Islamic state in southern Iraq if their constituents so choose. Regions can have their own militaries and control part of their water and oil resources.

Logic would suggest that once they come to terms with the fact that they no longer rule Iraq, the Sunni Arabs will realize that the constitutional framework actually protects them from domination by the Shiite majority. It does not leave the Sunni Arabs penniless as some fear; they get a proportionate share of Iraq's oil revenue. But Kurdistan and the Shiite south will manage new oil fields in their own regions. When the Sunni Arabs were in charge, they used Iraq's oil to finance their own development -- and the destruction of Kurdistan and the south. The Kurds and Shiites will not let this happen again.

The United States should focus now not on preserving the unity of Iraq but on avoiding a spreading civil war. The constitution resolves the issues of oil, territory and control of the central government that might intensify conflict. Engaged diplomacy will be required to make these provisions work, especially with regard to the territorial dispute between Kurdistan and Arab Iraq over the ethnically mixed province of Kirkuk. A referendum will decide its status by Dec. 31, 2007. Meanwhile, the United States should promote a special regime for Kirkuk with entrenched power-sharing for all communities, so as to make the referendum's outcome as painless as possible for the losers.

Iraq's political settlement can pave the way for a coalition exit. Foreign forces have no security role in Kurdistan and only a minimal one in the south. In the Sunni areas, the focus should be on developing a regional army that is aligned with moderate political elements. While the Bush administration pretends there is an Iraqi army today, it actually consists of homogenous Kurdish, Shiite or Sunni Arab battalions loyal not to the civilian authorities in Baghdad but to their respective communities.

It is hard to win hearts and minds in the Sunni Arab areas when the Iraqi troops fighting there are seen not as fellow citizens but as alien Kurds and Shiites. There are tribes and other Sunni Arabs willing to fight the terrorists, but not as collaborators. The coalition could base its forces in Kurdistan, where the population would welcome them and where they can be ready to move in case the Sunni Arab military proves unable or unwilling to take on the terrorists.

As Iraq divides, the problem of Baghdad becomes central. Religiously and ethnically mixed, Baghdad is already the front line of the sectarian war between Sunnis and Shiites. Kurdistan's departure from Iraq -- which seems inevitable in the not-too-distant future -- will not greatly affect the city, but the separation of Sunni Arabs and Shiites into independent states would cause havoc. Fortunately, this is much less likely, especially if federal arrangements work.

As Yugoslavia broke up in 1991, the first Bush administration put all its diplomatic muscle into a doomed effort to hold the country together, and it did nothing to stop the coming war. We should not repeat that mistake in Iraq.

The writer, a former U.S. ambassador to Croatia, is senior diplomatic fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. He has advised Kurdish leaders.

By: Sardar Pishdare:

Independent Kurdistan Will Benefit Everyone

For over a thousand years, we, the Kurds have been ruled, and mostly oppressed by Arabs, Persians and Turks, in particular where the Islamic faith is used as an ideological tool.

The end of the First World War and collapse of the Ottoman Empire brought hope and many expectations to the Kurds. We sought the dawn of a new era, bringing modernisation and independence to us and our neighboring peoples. It however only resulted in the Great Powers of the day partitioning Kurdistan.

These powers then began to negotiate and purchase Kurdish oil from the new Arab, Turkish and Persian states which they had created, almost from nothing, causing huge injustice to the Kurds and culminating in the instability and conflicts of today.

The revenues from this oil were later used by the artificial new states to remove the West from the Middle East, and to fuel further conflicts.

For over 80 years we the Kurds have protested to major powers that most of these regimes are terror states, which deny democracy to their people, use religion as a tool, plunder everything in their path and willfully kill any persons who thwart their objective.

Our Kurdish culture and roots are close to Europe. History proves that we, like the Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, Franks, Saxons and Britons are of Indo-European source.

I can truthfully state that we Kurds prefer economic cooperation with modern Europe, to fuse our resources, manpower, intelligence and wealth, so creating a stronger role for Europe in the Middle East. Kurdistan's geologically proven wealth not only features oil and gas, but many other minerals and water resources.

Kurdistan's large and varied population has long traditions of technical, intellectual and artistic skill.

The political geography of the Middle East today is unstable. It requires urgent changes, including a Road Map for a new and stable, prosperous and progressive Middle East. Greater Kurdistan must exist, or there will never be stability.

These changes must enable the Greater Kurdistan to exist, with the creation from Syria of a 400-kms Free Zone stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the borders of current Iraq. The New Iraq must be divided from the intersection of the Euphrates River at Baghdad; Iran must give up Kurdish territory from the Straits of Hormuz to the Caspian Sea.

Oil geologists know the extent of oil reserves in this region, and their potential to solve the increasingly short supply of oil in the world. Kurdish Oil and Western partnership will provide that supply security, within secure, just and stable frontiers.

Saeed Kirkuki:

The most shameful and appalling inhumane act ever logged in the history of mankind by any totalitarian, fascistic or despotic regime.

When 5,000 innocent civilians including: women, children, and the elderly lost their dear lives in the godly city of " Halabja " , the Superpower nations bragging that they are the flag holders of democracy, social equality and human rights were wordless , indifferent and unfeeling about it because of the danger bullying their own political interests in the region. 10,000 people were paralyzed, disfigured and brutally incapacitated. Thousand died of appalling complexity, deteriorating diseases, and biological deficiency afterward.

Where were the worldwide campaigning movements to promote and protect human rights internationally through the use of law and legal institutions? Where were the champions of democracy to challenge oppressive ideologies and power structures, channel international pressure to secure human rights protections, and amplify new voices within the global discourse? Where were the neutral media to combat censorship by promoting freedom of expression and access to official information.

Saddam Hussein and his henchman, Ali Hassan al-Majid, the notorious "Chemical Ali," and all those ultimately culpable forthe decision to command the poison gas shelling of Halabja should be brought to justice before an international tribunal and penalized without any stipulation. . The facts and evidence to justify their sentence is obvious to the world community. These crimes will not be forgotten.

From the city of Halabja,
There came a cry,
We want our rights,
No more fights,

The land which was once a paradise,
was ravaged by the dictator,
What a name for our sacrifice!

They cry for peace,
All day and night,
They want the fight to seize,
And their rights to be released,

Why don't people see the cruelty of the other side,
Are they out of their minds?
But the "great" rulers still lie,
And support their "great" ally

Those who are in power,
force their rule,
By missile shower,
this is the case of the hour,

They recall their peaceful nights,
And streets dazzling with lights,
Which are never again seen in the dark nights,

For that they will go through all
Thick and thin.
And at last win,
If God Almighty wills.

Michael Belinsky:

I disagree with the argument presented by Mr. Zakhoi.

A good example of a strong government uniting and stabilizing a sovereign territory is the emergence of the United States of America from a confederate system to a federal system. Decentralization, in the first case, made governance impossible. Taxes were not collected, an army was not raised, and finally -- internal conflict was not adequately managed.

Once a strong central government was put into place, it was able to unite the different territories under a single rule. Taxes were collected, an army was raised, and internal conflict was better managed.

The major conflict -- the Civil War -- although it was bloody and terrible, was not able to shatted this system. Under a confederate system, a civil war would most likely have led to dissolution of the republic.

The United States, like all countries, is bound by its history. Its history tells it that a strong federal government is preferable to a weak and decentralized one. When rebuilding Iraq, therefore, it will draw lessons from its history and attempt to institute strength in the center, as opposed to diluting it across the entire region.

A strong, central Iraq will better manage any internal conflict and present a strong face to the outside world. Centralization makes the possibility of dictatorship more likely, as Mr. Zakhoi pointed out, yet the development of liberal institutions that constrain such outcomes are the hallmark of Westernizing any non-democratic regime.


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.

Ahmad Zakhoi:

A decentralized system is the best approach to emasculate dictatorial regimes

Ahmad Zakhoi

With the decline and evaporation in the 19th and 20th centuries of monarchies based on hereditary descent, dictatorship became one of the two chief forms of government in use by most nations throughout Middle East , the other being constitutional democracy.

In a dictatorial regime, all the political power is concentrated in the hands of the Central Government. Dictators usually resort to force or fraud to gain despotic political power, which they maintain through the use of intimidation, terror, and the suppression of basic civil liberties. They may also employ techniques of mass propaganda in order to sustain their public support. This is precisely what one can perceive by some self-imposed regimes in countries like Iran, Iraq and Syria.

The US administration stepped up efforts to implement the democracy-propagation strategy to swap these overbearing regimes through apportioning immense budget and prompting pro-democracy supporters. Most Middle Eastern nations own viable, indigenous democratic movements. Also setting it apart, the United States is, for the most part, admired politically and culturally by many elements of democratic movements and by the population in general. To achieve its ultimate goals in eliminating such ruler regimes, the US should principally conceive such diplomacies and campaigns to impair such regimes. To emasculate these regimes, the US should distribute the political and administrative power by introducing a decentralized system. We will concisely specify the characterization and advantages of a decentralized type of administration.


Political decentralization aims to give citizens or their elected representatives more power in public decision-making. It is often associated with pluralistic politics and representative government, but it can also support democratization by giving citizens, or their representatives, more influence in the formulation and implementation of policies. Advocates of political decentralization assume that decisions made with greater participation will be better informed and more relevant to diverse interests in society than those made only by national political authorities.

Political decentralization often requires constitutional or statutory reforms, the development of pluralistic political parties, the strengthening of legislatures, creation of local political units, and the encouragement of effective public interest groups.
The main argument of decentralization is that it allows for greater citizens participation. Citizens would have a greater say in their own governance both trough local elections and opportunities for direct participation that local authorities are in a better position to provide. It can also be adopted as a means of giving different ethnic and regional groups some autonomy and control over their own affairs. The thinking is that if different ethnic and regional minorities have some autonomy, some ability to determine their own local affairs with respect to education, culture, and economic development, they will feel more secure, and be more willing to accept the authority and legitimacy of the larger national state.

Decentralization would help break absolute power structures, and it reduces the possibility that one political party or faction might take control over government affairs. It also allows for democratic pluralism through greater representation of different political, ethnic, religious and regional groups a process usually resisted for central government who fear lose of power.

Critics assert that decentralization poses a national unity, as it weakens allegiance to the state and encourages the emergence of separatist movements. On the contrary, decentralization increases political stability and national unity. It can contribute to political stability by power sharing. Such power-sharing at the sub-national level could give a voice to different minorities and political groups in local elections are underrepresented in national ones. Through the introduction of voting at various levels, (vertical distribution of power), national governments can reduce the occurrence and costs relentless and crippling struggles for national political power.

Why decentralization?

What are the expected outcomes of decentralization? Reaching out to civil society will broaden participation in political, economic and social activities that could strengthen the democratic process even further. Services will be provided more efficiently and effectively. The public sector will be forced to be accountable, increase the transparency of its work processes and become more responsive to citizens needs and desires. Particularly with regard to the issue of poverty reduction, marginalized regions and groups in society such as women, the urban and rural pour and ethnic minorities, will be given a greater say in matters. Hopefully, this should give them greater access to the political decision-making process thereby ensuring a more equitable distribution of resources.


Decentralized structure of governance in any nation makes for better delivery of services and hastens employment in every nook and corner of such a nation, thus enhancing its prosperity and greatness in the long run. It requires that every component section of the union fully participate as this makes for greater practice of democratic principles and is good for the nation in general.

It is a fact that the stable and prosperous nations of the world are those with strong economic and political democracies which evolve a decentralized form of governance, such as the United States and Germany. The advantages of the concept and practice of power devolution in any nation of the world, far outweigh the disadvantages. The stability and prosperity currently being enjoyed by such nations bear testimony to this.

Finally, decentralization of power provides an additional check against the abuse of power. Of course, checks and balances are needed within the central government itself. This is why there must be an independent parliament and judiciary, and effective auditing and counter-corruption mechanisms. But federalism can provide an additional bulwark against the concentration and abuse of power.

Post a comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.


  • America's Role
  • Business and Technology
  • Culture and Society
  • Environment
  • Human Rights
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Islamic Movements
  • Israel-Palestine
  • Security and Terrorism
  • The Global Economy
  • The New Asia
PostGlobal is an interactive conversation on global issues moderated by Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius of The Washington Post. It is produced jointly by Newsweek and washingtonpost.com, as is On Faith, a conversation on religion. Please send your comments, questions and suggestions for PostGlobal to Lauren Keane, its editor and producer.