"The One Iraq policy is wrong."
"You tried it, it failed. Don't insist on repeating a failed experience. We can't live together within the same country. But we may be good neighbours."
"We're supposed to be Iraqis and we are asked to be Iraqis, but at the same time we do not benefit from being Iraqi."
"We have our own language, history, culture, music, geography, which is different from that of Arabs."
"We have been free from Iraq since 1991. .. We defied Saddam Hussein."
Falah Mustafa, Kurdistan Regional Government
"Question number one is: Does everyone agree that Iraq should hold together? Because if you don't agree that it should hold together, you're not going to reconcile. And that's all about the Kurds. Are the Kurds in or are the Kurds out?"
Unnamed Western official
"Should the [Daesh] threat recede, Baghdad will have to contend with a range of land disputes with the [Kurdish Regional Government], as well as strengthened Iraqi Kurdish forces, which have received training and equipment from coalition members, including Canada."
Global Affairs Canada
"Do I think there's the potential for friction? Absolutely."
"But right now, everyone is saying all of the right things."
Canadian Brig.-Gen. David Anderson, leader, multinational military advisers
|Erbil, Kurdistan -- Photo: LaChicaPhoto/Flickr|
So, does it appear as though the Kurds are prepared to once again surrender (de facto) sovereignty, much less the autonomy they have enjoyed since the liberation of Iraq from the dictatorial talons of its tyrant, Saddam Hussein? Since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, ill advised from a Western perspective as it might have seemed, which led to the breakdown of civil order and the deathly presence of sectarian violence between the minority Sunni and majority Shiite population of the country, the Kurdish enclave has been serenely well-managed, peaceful and thriving.
But for geography imposed upon the region by foreign diktat, the Kurds have nothing in common with the Arabs. They represent an ethnic heritage and a culture of tolerance whose presence in the region ancient history records. But their region was split in four to become part of artificially-conceived boundaries by occupying European powers post World War One, when the Ottoman Empire fell, despite that Great Britain promised the Kurds would finally be recognized as a nation.They have suffered betrayal, and dreadful oppression in Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran.
Saddam Hussein had his troops sweep through Kurdistan, slaughtering people and animals, destroying towns and villages and leaving desolation behind. How likely is it that Iraqi Kurds would want to remain a part of Iraq? Kurdistan's President Masoud Barzani is committed to a referendum on independence, once the matter of destroying the viciously threatening presence of Islamic State has been accomplished in everyone's best interests. Sovereignty has been a long time coming.
Because of the history of the two Arab countries and Persian Iran, plus Turkey, and the position of the Kurds within their geography Western nations are loathe to lend themselves to the controversy. Yet their commitment to helping the region control and finally defeat the presence of fundamentalist Islamist totalitarians recognized as a threat to civilization everywhere has seen the dispatch of military strategic experts to the Kurds and to the Iraqi military to teach best practises in support of the common good to destroy Islamic State.
Military weapons have been distributed to the Peshmerga with agreement from Baghdad, to ensure they are at least as well armed as the Islamist terrorists, even while the Western governments supplying the military advisers and the weaponry are concerned that both may be turned against what they see as the legitimate government of Iraq in Kurdistan's bid for sovereign recognition. Despite which the final decision to increase the number of military trainers and provide increased military equipment from coalition members, was the right decision to make.
As Kurdistan's top diplomat, Falah Mustafa noted, the Kurds have more than fulfilled their obligations to Iraq, while the central government has suspended budget transfers to the Kurdish enclave, representing 17 percent of the Kurdish national budget, even while it is the Peshmerga that has been providing and prosecuting the most notable and successful of the conflict missions against Islamic State, while at the same time being burdened with their intake of refugees desperately seeking haven from Islamic State predation.
"Once we are economically, financially and politically independent, only then will we be truly independent", stated a resident of Erbil, Kara Alsarraj. Independence is most certainly what Kurds have long since deserved, and independence is what must be accomplished. It has been the Peshmerga, disciplined and fearless, that has managed to defend Iraqi Kurds and Christians and Yazidis from becoming ISIL prey. By contrast, the Iraqi military has been in a state of ignominious disarray, despite the stepped-up training by Western military advisers.
Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis must come to terms with how they will manage to live with one another in Iraq. The government of Iraq must understand that it cannot forever insist that Kurdistan is part of Iraq, for it is not part of Iraq, not historically and not to the present even geographically. Iraq must reconcile itself to becoming a neighbour to an adjacent nation which it has too long insisted is part of theirs but which is willing to be a reliable, good and helpful neighbour.
|Erbil, Kurdistan, Citadel. Shar Park features numerous fountains, brick arcades, and a clock tower. It also features numerous cafes and teashops Photo: LaChicaPhoto/Flickr|