Sunday, October 03, 2004

Kurdistan, Kirkuk, Turkey . . . can you say "civil war"?

This from Reuters:

Of course the Kurds are starting to push for their independence. With a fairly stable polity and de facto independence since the 1991 Gulf War, who would want to be shackled to a state racked by internal violence and the growing threat of Sunni-Shi'ite conflict? Though, if the Kurds make a significant push for independence, which they are bound to do if conditions don't improve in southern Iraq (and which they might do regardless), the problems for the new Iraqi state become perhaps even greater than the current rebellion. Reuters touches on some of the conflicts that might ensue: Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs battling for control over Kirkuk, while pro-independence Kurdish parties unite to lobby the new government and Sunni and Shi'ite Arab parties for control of the city's oil revenues.

But what else could happen? Innumerable scenarios jump to mind. Turkey, long opposed to a Kurdish state, would continue to mount a military presence on Iraq's northern border. The United States and Europe might effectively pressure Turkey to stand down, especially considering Turkey's desire to join the EU. But will the US really risk alienating the only allied, secular state in the region? Unlikely. But what's the alternative? Alienating the only faction of the Iraqi population that has always supported the United States and the invasion of Iraq? If the United States pressures the Kurds to remain a part of the Iraqi state, it's not hard to imagine a coalition of parties forming within a newly formed Iraqi government to buck American influence over the country. And then?

While American leaders spend their time speaking up the challenge of putting down the rebellion in southern Iraq, that is only the first problem. Growing numbers of murders in Iraqi cities, increasing evidence of Sunni-Shia ethnic violence, and mounting pressure from the Kurds to will rip the country apart. I hate to say it, but perhaps a strong autocratic government is the only one capable of keeping the country together. And any move to break it apart will inevitable involve Iran (supporting Shi'ite independence, or seeking to absorb those regions into the Iranian religious state) and Turkey (to prevent Kurdish independence), and probably every other country in the Middle East. The democracy in Iraq will operate along ethnic lines. Ethnic political parties, all of whom wouldn't mind being in control of its own state, will pull in different directions.

All of this is not new. I wrote about this two years ago in a final exam for my Moral Foundations of Politics class. These are the scenarios that I discussed with my friends. I remember a certain Flash animation that followed this logic to a bloody inferno conclusion. The challenges in Iraq go so far beyond the "insurgency" or the "rebellion," it's astounding.


Post a Comment

<< Home