December 18, 2004


Kurdistan offers a happier picture of Iraq liberation (Jack Fairweather, 18/12/2004, Daily Telegraph)

A wedding is being held at the newly built Sheraton hotel in Irbil. The Kurdish bride and groom sit blinking into a video camera, their family clustered around. In the background, American contractors are drinking Turkish beer.

This place of smiles and shining marble is the Iraq that was meant to be after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

It existed for a brief moment after the invasion when American soldiers were at first greeted as liberators. Now the only place still deeply grateful for getting rid of the dictator is in the north of the country, in Kurdistan, a sanctuary for contractors, Baghdad officials and lost American ideals.

Western businessmen move freely around the region's capital, Irbil, and American soldiers eat in restaurants without their body armour. In the crowded foyer of the Sheraton, Kurdish businessmen and politicians discuss reconstruction work.

After the 1991 Gulf war, the Kurdish areas - long victim of Saddam's Arabisation policies - lived in turbulent but slowly prospering autonomy, protected by the no-fly zones enforced by Britain and America. They are now booming.

Since the 2003 invasion the regional economy has had more than £100 million in investment, channelled mostly into building houses, roads, water-treatment systems, and two new university campuses.

Most of the money has come from the regional government, although western firms have also moved north from Baghdad looking for reconstruction contracts.

A British businessman, Richard Hadler, said: "I recently told a business seminar in London: "You can come to Kurdistan. There are dangers involved, but on the whole it is stable. And there's a lot of work to be done.' "

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 18, 2004 9:40 PM

Is there any good reason why Kurdistan is not permitted to be an independent nation? The Kurds unlike the so-called Palestinians are a real people, with a real history and a real culture.

Posted by: Bart at December 19, 2004 6:16 AM

It would piss off the Turks.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at December 19, 2004 6:29 AM

The Turks pissed us off by not letting our troops use their territory as a staging area. The Turkish government mollycoddles Chechen and Bosniak terrorists. The Turkish government is Islamist. Lots of Americans have supported warmer relations with Turkey for decades and this is the thanks we get? Screw them!

So what if we piss them off!

Posted by: Bart at December 19, 2004 7:09 AM

They were right not to help us. Their Kurdish territory will eventually be sheared off.

Posted by: oj at December 19, 2004 8:27 AM

Since Kurds are present in all levels of Turkish society, that's absurd. Also, there is significant intermarriage between the two groups and there has been for centuries. There is no more reason for the 'Kurdish territory' of Turkey to secede than there is for the Francophone areas of Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and New York to do so.

Turkish businessmen are all over the Caucases right now doing business and making deals. There is no reason to think that they couldn't do the same in independent Kurdistan. If someone wanted to move from Turkey to Kurdistan, nothing would stop him, and the small number of non-communist nationalists would certainly be able to move across that border. As for the PKK, if the Turks have to make them into shish-kabob nobody on either side of the border would really care.

Posted by: Bart at December 19, 2004 11:39 AM


Where'd NH, VT and ME come from?

Posted by: oj at December 19, 2004 11:42 AM

They were inventions of European imperialists, not unlike the borders of Turkey and Iraq.

Posted by: Bart at December 19, 2004 2:01 PM

And now we've invented Kurdistan.

Posted by: oj at December 19, 2004 4:49 PM

No. It was a province of the Ottoman Empire. More importantly, Kurds are a distinctive ethnic, religious and linguistic community, unlike, for example, the so-called Palestinians whose entitlement to a nation I never see you doubting.

Posted by: Bart at December 19, 2004 5:13 PM

The Kurds have one great advantage that the rest of Iraq does not - ten years of "occupation" by the US under which to learn how a market democracy operates.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at December 20, 2004 11:09 AM

The Kurdish part of Iraq was not occupied by the US. The region benefited from "NIRAD", the Northern Iraq Air Defense Command, for 10 years.

Posted by: Dave W. at December 21, 2004 2:59 PM