July 9, 2002


Kurds, Secure in North Iraq, Are Cool to a U.S. Offensive (JOHN F. BURNS, 7/06/02, NY Times)
As the United States considers ways of accomplishing President Bush's call for an end to Saddam Hussein's rule in Iraq, Washington's goal of a "regime change" in Baghdad is running into strong reservations from Iraqi Kurdish leaders who would be crucial allies in any military campaign.

These leaders, interviewed in their strongholds in northern Iraq in the last week, say flatly that they would be reluctant to join American military operations that put Kurds at risk of an onslaught by Iraqi troops of the kind they suffered after the Persian Gulf war in 1991. A Kurdish uprising then that was encouraged by the first President Bush was brutally suppressed by Mr. Hussein, and American forces failed to intervene as thousands of Kurds were killed.

No group has suffered more from Mr. Hussein's 23-year-old rule than the Kurds, who lost tens of thousands of lives to Iraqi offensives in the 1980's and 90's. The most brutal attacks, cited by the present President Bush recently as part of the justification for toppling the Iraqi ruler, involved Iraqi use of poison gas at Halabja and dozens of other towns and villages in the northern Kurdish districts during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war that ended in 1988.

Still, no Iraqis have benefited more from Western support in the last decade than the Kurds. Protected by a "safe haven" declared by the United Nations and a "no-flight zone" patrolled by American and British warplanes, the Kurds, with barely 40,000 troops and only light weapons, have built a 17,000-square-mile mini-state that arcs across a 500-mile stretch of Iraqi territory bordering Syria, Turkey and Iran.

The threat of Western airstrikes has kept Iraqi armored battalions immobilized to the south, often within artillery range of Kurdish strongholds like Erbil, a sprawling city of 750,000 people 250 miles north of Baghdad. In this "liberated area" of soaring mountains, fertile foothills and semi-desert, the Kurds have built a society with freedoms denied to the rest of Iraq's population.

This is silly. Give them a choice--either help us or we stop helping you. Posted by Orrin Judd at July 9, 2002 11:18 AM
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