Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Every Which Way Is War In Iraq

By Cernig

I think Jim Henley and Glen Greenwald have a serious point - the Beltway boys must love wars, the more the better. Whether they think it's good for building national character and bootstrapping a sluggish economy or they are just immersed in the most militaristic culture of all the West's democracies, who knows? But how else to explain the oncoming clusterf**k in Iraq?

Today, The leader of Kurdish Iraq is warning that his people will fight a civil war if they don't get a promised referendum on the fate of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.
Nationally, the dispute over Kirkuk pits the Kurds, who want to annex the city to their largely autonomous region in northern Iraq, against the country's Arab majority and its small minority of Turks, known locally as Turkomen.

"Frankly I am not comfortable with the behavior and the policy of the federal government on Kirkuk," Massoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdish region, said in an interview with U.S.-funded Alhurra television.

"There is procrastination (by the government) and if this issue is not resolved, as I said before, all options are open," he said.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, has called Kirkuk "our Jerusalem." Like Jerusalem, it has a patchwork of rival sects, there are competing claims over who should control it, and it's important to the nation's future. The area around the city accounts for about 40% of Iraq's oil production.

A clause in Iraq's constitution calls for a referendum in Kirkuk to decide its future status by the end of the year. Clause 140 stipulates that Kurds expelled from the city during Saddam Hussein's rule must be allowed to return. A census would then be held to determine which ethnic group was a majority of the population. Tens of thousands of Kurds have returned to the city since Saddam was ousted in 2003, but a census has not been conducted.

"If clause 140 is not implemented, then there will be a real civil war," Barzani said.
Yet if the Kurds do win Kirkuk, there could be another entirely different war, as it could well turn out to be the final trigger for a Turkish invasion. Back in April, Barzani warned the Turks to butt out of Kirkuk or face increased violence in their own country, after the latter threatened military action to prevent Kirkuk becoming the capital of an independent and oil-rich Kurdish state.
Turkish leaders are concerned that Iraq's Kurds want Kirkuk's oil revenues to fund a bid for outright independence, not just autonomy. The Turks fear that would encourage separatist Kurdish guerrillas in Turkey, who have been fighting for autonomy since 1984. The conflict has claimed the lives of 37,000 people.

"Turkey is not allowed to intervene in the Kirkuk issue and if it does, we will interfere in Diyarbakir's issues and other cities in Turkey," Barzani said. Diyarbakir is the largest city in Turkey's Kurdish-dominated southeast.

Asked if he meant to threaten Turkey, Barzani responded that he was telling Ankara what would happen "if Turkey interferes." He said Turkey had military and diplomatic clout, but that the Kurds had survived through the Saddam Hussein regime and that what happened in Kirkuk was "none of their (Ankara's) business."

When asked about the Turkmen minority in Kirkuk and Turkey's concern for its ethnic brethren, Barzani shot back:

"There are 30 million Kurds in Turkey and we don't interfere there. If they (the Turks) interfere in Kirkuk over just thousands of Turkmen then we will take action for the 30 million Kurds in Turkey."

"I hope we don't reach this point, but if the Turks insist on intervening in Kirkuk matter I am ready to take responsible for our response," Barzani said.
It appears, then, that the continuing US military presence in Iraq is going to get to choose sides in at least one no-win war no matter what happens. If the Kurds are denied, a civil,war ensues. If the Kurds get their way, NATO ally Turkey invades.

Then there's the Sunni - Shia war, which still shows signs of getting worse. Just today, Sunnis withdrew from Maliki's coalition government complaining of sectarian bigotry and attacks, while there are other reports that the Chief of the Iraqi Army tried to resign over politically-motivated meddling with his command. These are important political benchmarks in what looks like an unstoppable descent into a hotter civil war over the next year. Nor are the invasion-forged problems of attacks on US forces by everyone and his aunt truly slowing to a meaningful degree.

While the Bush administration and its cheerleaders do everything they can to prove that the surge is working by cherrypicking their figures, the political situation - the supposed point of the surge - in Iraq is continuing to deteriorate at an ever faster pace. No wonder The US and UK want to pass the buck for political reconcilliation to the UN as soon as possible.

Yet still, the self-described "serious" people - who have been so wrong on so many things since this debacle began - say the US must stay in Iraq for more of the same. And people still listen to them. It beggars the imagination.

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