Wednesday, June 09, 2004

If the Bush administration is serious about democracy in Iraq, it should support the Kurds forcefully. Unfortunately it looks like the US might be willing to sell out the Kurds yet again.
To assure that Kurdish rights are retained, Mr. Talabani and Mr. Barzani, whose parties together deploy about 75,000 fighters, asked President Bush to include the interim Iraqi constitution in the United Nations security resolution that governs the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty.

But American officials rejected the Kurdish request after appeals from Shiite leaders, including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the nation's most powerful Shiite, who threatened "serious consequences" if any such move was undertaken. That seemed to set the stage for a showdown between Kurdish and Shiite leaders over the future of the Iraqi state.
Clearly the Kurds are looking for some assurances that the autonomy which they have enjoyed since 1991 will continue. Just as clearly, Sistani is unwilling to grant them. This may all be a tempest in a teapot at the end of the day, but in the meantime the Bush administration needs to remain committed to an autonomous Kurdistan.

In Kurdistan the US and the world have the most democratic secular non-imperialist state in the Middle East, not to mention a viable social democratic party in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), an observer in the Socialist International and one of the two main Kurdish political parties runnning the Kurdish Regional Government. To throw it away in order to appease Sistani would be the height of recklessness. The Kurds are in a strong position in the sense that they have not only a functioning state apparatus but a trained and equipped military to defend it. One hopes they won't need to do so. While running around like chickens with their heads cut off in the Arab region of Iraq, however, Paul Bremer et al. may destroy the only good thing to emerge from the last 13 years of Iraq policy.

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