Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Wait'll we turn this corner

Kurds in Iraqi army proclaim loyalty to militia

Kurdish leaders have inserted more than 10,000 of their militia members into Iraqi army divisions in northern Iraq to lay the groundwork to swarm south, seize the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and possibly half of Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, and secure the borders of an independent Kurdistan.

Five days of interviews with Kurdish leaders and troops in the region suggest that U.S. plans to bring unity to Iraq before withdrawing American troops by training and equipping a national army aren't gaining traction. Instead, some troops that are formally under U.S. and Iraqi national command are preparing to protect territory and ethnic and religious interests in the event of Iraq's fragmentation, which many of them think is inevitable.

The soldiers said that while they wore Iraqi army uniforms they still considered themselves members of the Peshmerga - the Kurdish militia - and were awaiting orders from Kurdish leaders to break ranks. Many said they wouldn't hesitate to kill their Iraqi army comrades, especially Arabs, if a fight for an independent Kurdistan erupted.

"It doesn't matter if we have to fight the Arabs in our own battalion," said Gabriel Mohammed, a Kurdish soldier in the Iraqi army who was escorting a Knight Ridder reporter through Kirkuk. "Kirkuk will be ours."

The Kurds have readied their troops not only because they've long yearned to establish an independent state but also because their leaders expect Iraq to disintegrate, senior leaders in the Peshmerga - literally, "those who face death" - told Knight Ridder. The Kurds are mostly secular Sunni Muslims, and are ethnically distinct from Arabs.
Jafar Mustafir, a close adviser to Iraq's Kurdish interim president, Jalal Talabani, and the deputy head of Peshmerga for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, a longtime rival of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, echoed that.

"We will do our best diplomatically, and if that fails we will use force" to secure borders for an independent Kurdistan, Mustafir said. "The government in Baghdad will be too weak to use force against the will of the Kurdish people."

This could well be it: the move that seals Iraq's fate and starts the inevitable all-out (and un-spinnable) civil war. That possibility (an independent Kurdistan) has always been there, but a couple of moves away on the chessboard. Now the Kurds, who have been the most likely all along to trigger the end game, seem to be just about there. The newsworthy thing here isn't the fact that they are planning this, but that they are so confident in their position that they are so open in their discussion of it. When you are weak, your plans are likely to rely on surprise; when you are strong, you feel free to telegraph your moves and use fear and intimidation as allies.

If the Sunnis call bullshit on the elections, my guess is the Kurds will quickly run out reasons to delay, and the American act in this long-running tragedy will end. Unless, of course we are prepared to nuke into slightly premature oblivion our own petroleum fix.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read quite a few blogs and have to say that you too have turned a corner. Your writing was always very good, but now you are consistently up there with the best of them.
Good for you and Happppy New Year and on to Syria!!!
(note to readers, no I am not his mother, no connection at all, but he has gotten really good don't you think?)

12:09 PM  

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