October 7, 2014


The rise of Kurdistan (Jed Lea-Henry, 8 October 2014, Online Opinion)

[T]he Kurds of Iraq have survived the last two decades only due to, though belated in its application, western intervention and sustained protection. Despite the relative security this has provided, for the Kurds this has been two decades of perpetual fear concerning the continuing longevity of that protection. Their very existence balanced upon the collective conscience of international actors - a collective conscience that historically has proven capricious and short-lived.

Considering this, following the 2003 invasion and subsequent fall of Saddam and the Ba'athist party, one would have forgiven the Kurds for immediately abandoning the then crippled Iraqi state. Rather, the Kurdish nation bought into the formation of a new democratic Iraq. Operating from within an implicit framework protecting the Iraqi Presidency for ethnic Kurds, Fouad Massoum recently replaced Jalal Talabani, both members of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party, in the first democratic and peaceful transition of executive power in Iraqi history.

This regional attachment to the greater Iraqi state was, at least in part, due to economic considerations. Colloquially known as the 'Kurdish Jerusalem', the town of Kirkuk and its two oil fields have long been seen as part the Kurdish nation. However, after it was seized during Saddam's era, its status in the new Iraq has been open to debate. With ownership status of this asset left intentionally 'undecided', Kurdistan reintegrated within the new Iraqi state due to economic necessity.

It is here that the recent rise of the terrorist organisation 'Islamic State' and the subsequent collapse of the Iraqi army, has offered Kurdistan an unlikely opportunity for national realisation.

The failure of the Iraqi state to maintain its borders, and provide human security within them, legitimised the humanitarian seizure of Kirkuk by Kurdish forces. By exposing the institutional failures of the new Iraqi state, and by setting the Kurds up as the prime recipients of foreign military armaments, Islamic State has provided the conditions for the reincorporation of Kirkuk into Kurdistan, and as such have supplied the impetus for Kurdish independence.

Now economically independent, the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Massoud Barzani, declared the overcoming of the last remaining hurdle to Kurdish statehood, "We waited for 10 years for Baghdad to solve Article 140 [referring to Kirkuk]...."now it's accomplished because the Iraqi army pulled out and our Peshmerga forces had to step in. So now the problem is solved. There will be more no more conversation about it".

Importantly, Turkey who had long opposed Kurdish independence in Iraq, (previously threatening invasion if referendums on independence were to be held, for fear of its impact upon its own Kurdish population), indicated a change of policy in a message delivered through a government spokesman, "The Kurds of Iraq can decide for themselves the name and type of the entity they are living in,"... "The Kurds, like any other nation, will have the right to decide their fate".

Kurdistan was the one aspect of the Gulf War he got right.

Posted by at October 7, 2014 7:15 PM

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