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Tuesday, January 06, 2004

The Battle for Kurdistan

The Battle for Kurdistan

Trouble looms after coalition tells Kurds self-rule can stay

Owen Bowcott and Brian Whitaker
Tuesday January 6, 2004
The Guardian

Kurdish political leaders have been reassured that their region's semi-autonomous status will be allowed to continue after the handover to Iraqi self-rule on June 30.

The decision, which will infuriate neighbouring states and antagonise other Iraqis, is likely to have far-reaching consequences for any future constitutional settlement.

There have already been armed clashes in Kirkuk - with Arabs and Turkomans against Kurds - over control of the disputed, oil-rich city. Last week six people were killed.

The deal on preserving regional autonomy was reached at the weekend at a meeting in the Kurdish city of Irbil, when the American administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, and his British deputy, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, met Jalal Talabani, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and Massoud Barzani, head of the Kurdistan Democratic party (KDP). The latter group is determined to extend its control beyond what were once the "safe havens" to the whole of the predominantly Kurdish north, including Kirkuk.

Allowing the Kurds to retain regional government is tacit recognition that the coalition has neither the time nor resources to dismantle the existing Kurdish parliament and administrations if they are to meet the June deadline. Those bodies date back to the end of the 1991 Gulf war, surviving outside of Saddam Hussein's rule under allied protection.

The British and Americans formally maintain that whether or not Iraq becomes a federal state, with semi-autonomous regions or simply local governorates, is up to the Iraqis

The Kurds are not being shy about forcing their hand with weapons. Every Iraqi government since the British victory in 1918 has had problems with the Kurds and their demand for territorial independence. The two major Kurdish parties want a Scotland-type set up with a Northern Ireland-type population.

The Turkomen feel that they have a right to control the region as well as the Kurds, while the Kurds want to kick out the Arabs. All of this, independent of the current insurrection in Central Iraq.

If the Kurds get what they want, the Turks may well invade because they fear an independent Kurdistan. If they don't, they may well wage an ethnic war. None of this is going to bode well for an already overstretched US military in Iraq.

posted by Steve @ 5:38:00 PM

5:38:00 PM

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