More on Autonomous Regions
Senator Biden and Leslie Gelb propose a Bosnia solution for Iraq. That is, a very loose federation of three big ethnic enclaves.
They seem to just surrender Kirkuk province to Kurdistan and don’t seem aware of the Turkoman population as a factor there. There are on the order of 750,000 Turkomans, and they have been adopted as protectees by Turkey, and they are not going to accede to Kurdistan. There could easily be a Kurdish-Turkey war if a settlement is not made with the Turkomans.
My own proposal, yesterday, for the formation of provincial confederacies, is based on discussions among Iraqi politicians. I do not see them as autonomous as Biden and Gelb propose, and, indeed, I have argued that the federal government should parcel out petroleum income to them in such a way as to bind them to the central state. Biden and Gelb want to use US foreign aid (which is miniscule) as a carrot, but do not talk about the potential for Iraqi petroleum itself to play this role.
In contrast, Anthony Cordesman warns against partition. He points out that Iraqi populations are mixed, and partitioning the country into three zones would produce massive ethnic cleansing and other dangers.
He does not bring up another issue. The Arab world would never forgive the United States if it broke up Iraq. You would never be able to convince them that it hadn’t been done primarily for the benefit of Israel. Iraq in the late 1970s was a comer as potentially the most powerful Arab country. To see it broken and in fragments, supine before imperial and regional powers, would be heartbreaking to Arabs and would certainly provoke anti-Western sentiments and attacks in retaliation.
Bush’s response, via Scott McClellan, was to say that the US is committed to a united, federal Iraq with a strong central government. Saying that is not very useful, however, unless you specify how you will overcome the obstacles to reaching it. Biden has to be praised for taking the bull by the horns and proposing something! From Bush we just get an ostrich act.
In other Iraq news:
The FT reports on Iran’s firefights with the radical Marxist Pejak faction of the PKK, which has carried out sabotage and terror attacks in Iran. Iraqi Kurdistan seems to be giving both PKK and Pejek safe haven. There are said to be 5,000 PKK fighters in Iraq, who fled eastern Turkey. This problem of Iraqi Kurdish leaders allowing their territory to be used to attack tarkets in neighboring Turkey and Iran has produced both Turkish and Iranian shelling into Iraqi Kurdistan in recent days. Somehow the Turkish attacks are ignored or read as understandable, but the Iranian ones are unsupportable. A policy of Kurdistan encouraging autonomy for other regional Kurdistans inevitably leads to bloodshed.
And it is one of the problems with the Gelb fascination with dividing up Iraq– that will also divide up the rest of the Middle East, in ways that are not good for anyone.
Guerrilla violence killed 8 on Monday.