Thursday, March 05, 2009

IraqPundit on the Juan Cole and the Kurds

In December 2006, Prof. Cole posted his top ten myths about Iraq. Most of the myths are just semantic arguments or strawmen, but following were emphatic:
1. Myth number one is that the United States "can still win" in Iraq
This was just six months before the insurgency came in from the cold and AQ in Iraq's dominance of Anbar ended.

5. The second Lancet study showing 600,000 excess deaths from political and criminal violence since the US invasion is somehow flawed.
This was less than a month before the Lancet study was exposed as a farce. The vivisectioning continues as IraqPundit recently reported:
AP says Johns Hopkins "announced yesterday that it is barring Gilbert M. Burnham [Lancet Study author] from serving as a principal investigator on projects involving human subjects.
IP on Prof. Juan Cole

offers more evidence that the professing Cole is not really so comfortable with Arabic. Sad because he's had 6 years to buttress his boasts with actual knowledge.
Yesterday the professor wrote that he read in Arabic language Azzaman, "the arrival of United Nations counselors in Kirkuk with an aim of compiling a list of 'original' inhabitants of the city has provoked a wave of assassinations in the disputed city." The story actually says a census will be conducted. Cole then refers to Jala Naftji, a Turkmen member of the Kirkuk governing council, as a man. According to Cole, Nafitji "told Al-Zaman that he had been afraid of an increasing security vacuum in the province." Never mind that Jala is a woman's name and the newspaper used feminine pronouns. But Cole's an expert who is fluent in Arabic. Who am I to argue?
A couple of years ago Christopher Hitchens and The New York Times noted that Cole's ease with Persian was dubious as well.

IP Notes AP Only Reports Arab Atrocities Against Kurds
Does the reader get any figures about Kurdish violence against non-Kurds in Nineveh? No, because they are often portrayed as victims. The mainstream media have been covering the north as though it is only Kurdish territory. That is wrong.[...]What about Turkmen and Assyrians and others? I personally know people who have had their homes stolen by the peshmerga. The reporter writes as though the non-Kurdish people of Kirkuk do not exist. Certainly his Kurdish sources are not going to remind him.
Everything IP says is true. Also, while the Kurdish-controlled regions have been relatively liberal and secure since the fall of Saddam, they are in many ways politically repressive...for Kurds and especially for non-Kurds as the erstwhile blogger Kurdo once pointed out poignantly (although I can't seem to find the post).

My take is that absent a political solution, the Kurdish-Arab problems will be solved inevitably by force. Unfortunately however, neither the Kurds nor the Arabs are inclined to reach concessions:
If Arabs are being mistreated now, they will soon be able to turn things around...and the Arab suicide bombers will still be there.

And that's why, for what it's worth, I am slightly more sympathetic toward the Kurd's side: because I consider their plight to be existential (speaking as a political and cultural coalition, not individuals) while the situation of Arab Iraqis is less dire. Kurds are plundering the homes of non-Kurds for their homes as Arabs have been doing elsewhere. But Kurds (so far as I have heard) are not killing random people simply for not being Kurdish, while there are still Arab Iraqis killing Kurds for being Kurdish.

Does that make what the peshmurga are doing right? Does that ameliorate the injustice done to perfectly innocent Arab and non-Arab Iraqis who are being ethnically purged for the crime of not being Kurdish and for having something some Kurd with a gun wants? NO. That's why I said "I am SLIGHTLY more sympathetic toward the Kurdish plight".

And, anyway, as much as I want it, I don't see a political solution in the offing very soon.

While the fight over Kirkuk is also a greed issue on both sides (oh! that precious, beautiful oil revenue!), the core issue is trust:

Arab Iraqis think the Kurds want to take Kirkuk and leave.
Question: Why does that bother them?
Answer: It is human nature to value something more if others value it. And anyway the Arabs think that the Kurds WILL leave if they secure Kirkuk a Kurdish. And although they don't want to admit it, that clearly bothers them.

Iraqi Kurds believe that if Arabs become a significant voting block in Kurdish regions, they will use that power to oppress Kurdish language and culture. Looking at the last 80 years of Iraqi history, it is difficult to argue that that is not the case. The position of many Arab Iraqi bloggers seems to be "tough luck for them".
What is so great about Kirkuk? The Kurds see the arabization of Kirkuk (which began well before the Ba'athists came to power in the early 60s) as a shocking injustice to them, and they want that rectified. Well, it was. It is also, true that the Kurds see the oil of Kirkuk as way to make viable the idea of an independent Kurdistan--either because they actually want it or because they want to it as political leverage.

The truth is that there is not enough oil in the world to make an independent Kurdistan viable in the forseeable future for the reasons I explained here (although a failed Iraq is no longer a concern, the upshot is still true):
The new Kurdistan will be at war with the countries on its West, East, North, and South: Turkey, Iran, Syria, Iraq and the attempted independent Sunni state. [Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq] will begin handing out money and supplies to secure aliances with the local Arabs and other ethnicalities, and with rival Kurdish groups within the new Kurdish state. So in addition to fighting a war on every front, the new Kurdistan will be engaged in a no-holds-barred civil war with itself...Kurdistan will become the center of a maelstrom with a maelstrom.
George Packer
For more on this, I recommend the 2004 George Packer article The Next Iraqi War.
Money quote: "Fanaticism is the legacy of Saddam's Arabization policy."

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