Bremer Opposes Kurdish Canton; Talabani insists on it
In an interview with the London daily al-Hayat, US civil administrator of Iraq Paul Bremer has come out against the idea of consolidating the provinces of Iraq into ethnic cantons. He said, ”The US president did not send young American men and women half way across the world to die for an Iraq that is not united. There should be a recognition of the Kurdish situation because the Kurds lived in a special situation in the past 13 years.”
AFP/ash-Sharq al-Awsat reported on Sunday that Bremer in a recent news conference admitted that federalism per se did not threaten Iraqi unity, and he cited India and Switzerland as positive examples. But he said that the issue of the status of oil-rich Kirkuk was so important that it would have to be decided by an elected Iraqi government.
Meanwhile, Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani told the al-Sabah newspaper in Iraq that the Kurds did not insist on including the oil city of Kirkuk in an Iraqi Kurdistan. He said that non-Kurds were welcome to join the province voluntarily, but that Kirkuk was not something the Kurds would make a stand over. They do still want a Kurdish canton, which Bremer’s remarks in al-Hayat seemed to rule out.
Talabani said that the unsettled nature of the debate about the precise form of Iraqi federalism ”is very worrisome for the Kurds who have made many sacrifices.” He added, ”We were promised that we will get our rights but after the fall of the Saddam regime, these promises were forgotten.”
Babak Dehghanpisheh of Newsweek summarizes the increasing evidence of ethnic fissures in Iraq that could split the land if American military power is withdrawn.