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Viewed from Kurdistan the future for Iraq is most likely partition

By Bashdar Ismaeel - posted Monday, 23 August 2004

The Dawn of Liberation

The ubiquitous struggle in Iraq is not nearing a conclusion. Almost 18 months after the liberation of Iraq, violence and terror rumbles on. One may wonder what Iraq would have become in 18 months of harmony, stability and redevelopment. The situation has seemingly worsened by the day. Where killings and terrorist bombing were once an infrequent occurrence in Iraq, this is now a daily routine. Many Iraqis have come to believe that they were better off under Saddam Hussein’s stable but authoritarian grip of Iraq. The question one asks before the morning news is not if there has been another bombing, but where. With the violence has been a slow to non-existent redevelopment of Iraq, with the oil pipelines and just about everything else in the firing line – literally.

Iraq is currently governed by a US approved interim government whose primary purpose is to guide Iraq on the road to democracy and concord. Unfortunately, this is the same road that is seemingly littered with detonators and those who are ready to pounce on their next helpless victim.

Iyad Allawi, the interim prime minister and a member of the Shia community, has a tough if not impossible job on his hands. On the one hand comes the unnerving pressure from the Bush administration in the running of Iraq, leading to claims of being a puppet government. On the other hand, he has to feel the full force of Iraqi unrest, anger and expectancy.


Currently, the only peaceful part of the country is Iraqi-Kurdistan, which has experienced self-rule for over a decade to its full advantage. It is simple for the Kurds: they never felt a part of Iraq from the first day of its proclamation, let alone at a time when it is bathed in blood and terror. One naturally asks the questions, will there ever be a solution for Iraq; will the unrest ever die down?

Mistakes of the US

It is obvious that the US had a tough job on its hands with the redevelopment and democratisation of Iraq after its liberation. However the tactics thereafter have made that job even more difficult. They essentially turned what was a brewing crisis into a political disaster. Many reports have questioned the reasoning for the war by Britain and America and have criticised their conduct in the aftermath of the invasion.

Some many months later, no weapons of mass destruction have been exposed. In addition, the UK/US public has been gripped with disturbing images of prisoner abuse (the Abu Ghraib prison scandal is a prime example). After the war, the coalition should have deployed a more careful and conservative approach; in essence, too much happened too fast. Within hours of the liberation of Iraq there was widespread looting. Within days there was no official army, only numerous arms dumps. Crucially, within weeks there were disgruntled Iraqis with no food, jobs or medicine and within months the continuing bloodshed and destruction started. From then on it has gone from bad to worse. In this period, the Iraqis themselves have not been of much help, with constant squabbling, backbiting and mistrust clouding the political horizon, owing much to the fragmentation and multi-ethnical nature of Iraq.

The Fundamental Law was a US sponsored propaganda coup that was close to a sham – on the day of signature, the pens on the table were untouched. Only late US intervention and pressure prevented the ink on those pens becoming permanently dry. Further disagreements surrounding the UN resolution, federalism, Kirkuk and the future shape of the country are just the tip of the iceberg. And if this is not enough for one day, constant suicide bombing and assassinations have only compounded the situation. To add to the worries, far too much has remained undecided for one to even contemplate short-term peace.

Many crucial questions and potential stumbling blocks have only been delayed by the current unrest – and may prove to be even more difficult in their resolution than the current unrest itself. When an autonomous government has been finally elected in 2005, how they merge, or, in the words of the interim president, Ghazi Yawer, “glue” the various segments together in Iraq, is crucial. One thing is clear; a great deal of negotiation and compromise needs to take place for Iraq to refuel on its journey to democratisation. An example is the eventual stratagem to deal with the reversal of the so- called “Arabisation” process. How this is settled (or unsettled for that matter) may set the stage for Iraq in years to come.

Iraq and the Kurds

It is often easy to forget that Iraq is a dynamic mixture of a number of ethnic groups. Its controversial composition in 1920, in the aftermath of World War I and the fall of the Ottoman Empire, is the very reason for the instability and terror experienced today. After the premature end of the liberation honeymoon, mistrust has quickly displaced harmony; tears have replaced hope and joy.


How the Iraqi cake will be cut is open to debate: federalism itself is a political hot potato and accepting federalism in principle does not constitute agreement on the finer details of its application. The problem in Iraq is that there are too many problems or hotspots. If you think you have resolved an uprising in Najaf, fighting erupts in Falluja; when the Kurds and Sunnis have reached agreement, the Shia and just about everyone else on the table are at war. It appears that just as one group is nearing satisfaction, another group emits groans of discomfort almost immediately. Although the Iraqi train has trudged along in the last year or so, not much has been achieved on the surface. The police and army are still small in numbers and lack the capacity to deal with Iraqi insurgents without the assistance and logistical support of the US army. Unemployment is still high – after all who would want to do business in an environment where shootings and kidnappings are commonplace. National elections are now a matter of months away without any real progress on the ground. For the Kurds, the last 18 months have been a game of wait and see. Their patience is slowly running thin.

It is open to debate just how long the Kurds are willing to co-operate with the Arab majority. It is clear that they want to press ahead with their own redevelopment, with or without the rest of Iraq. The keenness to encourage business development in Kurdistan is evident, the construction of two new airports in Arbil and Sulaminyia is testimony to this and Kurdish parliamentary members are openly seeking logistical support and training from as far a field as Taiwan. The deployment of South Korean troops around the outskirts of Arbil will, at least in theory, aid this goal of the Kurds.

The greatest fear for the Kurds is that continued patience and co-operation (however long that is sustained) may prove to be fruitless. After all the compromise and diplomacy of the Kurds, their ultimate goals of autonomy and federalism within a united Iraq have not been realised.

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This article first appeared on on 19 August 2004.

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About the Author

Bashdar Pusho Ismaeel is a London-based freelance writer and analyst, whose primary focus and expertise is on the Kurds, Iraq and Middle Eastern current affairs. The main focus of his writing is to promote peace, justice and increase awareness of the diversity, suffering and at times explosive mix in Iraq and the Middle East.

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