October 27, 2006

Iraq and Kurdistan

Many reasonable Americans feel they should not pull out of Iraq, because they are responsible for the mess, and shouldn't walk away and leave the country to sectarian violence. "What would you do?" they ask.

"Leave immediately, because the invasion was illegal and unwarranted. Apologise for the deaths of 650,000 Iraqis. And, given that the US is spending $300 bn a year on the war, give $300 bn a year to the UN instead, and ask the Blue Helmets to restore order and repair the infrastructure." But the US won't, because they still hope they can keep military bases in Iraq, somehow.

Then the reasonable Americans ask, "But what about the conflict between Iraq's component pieces?"

The reply is the same as for Kashmir, Turkey, Chechnya, Canada, Macedonia, the Basque regions, Sudan, Nigeria... hold a referendum. Ask the people if they want to be part of the country they are currently part of, or not. If there is a geographic concentration of people numbering in excess of a million who don't wish to be part of their existing state, let them form their own instead.

In the case of the Kurds, they are an ethnically, linguistically, culturally concentrated people, 40 million of them, who happen to live in an area that has been artificially divided up among the countries of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. If any government on this planet was genuinely and disinterestedly in favor of democracy and human rights, it would be advocating the creation of Kurdistan.

That would leave the other two components of Iraq, the Sunnis and the Shias, with their different histories and cultures and geographic concentrations. Split them into two nations - Iraq as a nation was never more than an artificial creation of the British, patched together in the aftermath of the break-up of the Ottoman Empire. So the Shias would have a lot of oil, and the Sunnis wouldn't? So what? They're both good Muslim peoples, surely they can accept that Allah put the oil with some people and not with others for His own good reasons!

But unless you start with a referendum, all you have is a festering wound that will persist for centuries; the other options are to kill all the Kurds, or to drive them all out - and even driving them all out is only going to give you 40 million pissed-off Kurds some place else.

Law, not war; and begin the process of law with a referendum on national identity.

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