June 19, 2004


Kurds Advancing to Reclaim Land in Northern Iraq (DEXTER FILKINS, June 20, 2004, NY Times)

Thousands of ethnic Kurds are pushing into lands formerly held by Iraqi Arabs, forcing tens of thousands of them to flee to ramshackle refugee camps and transforming the demographic and political map of northern Iraq.

The Kurds are returning to lands from which they were expelled by the armies of Saddam Hussein and his predecessors in the Baath Party, who ordered thousands of Kurdish villages destroyed and sent waves of Iraqi Arabs north to fill the area with supporters.

The new movement, which began with the fall of Mr. Hussein, appears to have quickened this spring amid confusion about American policy, along with political pressure by Kurdish leaders to resettle the areas formerly held by Arabs. It is happening at a moment when Kurds are threatening to pull out of the national government if they are unable to ensure their autonomy.

In Baghdad, American officials say they are struggling to keep the displaced Kurds on the north side of the Green Line, the boundary of the Kurdish autonomous region. The Americans agree that the Kurds deserve to return to their ancestral lands but they want an orderly migration to avoid ethnic strife and political instability.

It's not the push South, or even the one to the West, that matters, but the one to the North, which will exacerbate tensions with Turkey.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 19, 2004 4:13 PM

Perhaps letting them move south will reduce the pressure to go north.

Posted by: jd watson at June 20, 2004 4:36 AM

The Turks left their say behind when they closed their borders before the war. Perhaps they thought the situation would moderate, but in reality they hamstrung themselves. Too bad.

Posted by: jim hamlen at June 20, 2004 11:07 AM

I doubt the US is principled enough to side with our friends at the cost of dismantling a largish country with NATO pretensions.

We should, but we won't.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at June 21, 2004 7:39 PM