FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Kurds Winning Battle of Self-Rule

by

John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, has urged Kurdish leaders to stand with Baghdad in the face of a Sunni Arab revolt but the Kurds appear to have concluded that Iraq is finished as a unitary state.

On the battlefront, the attacks of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) have slowed but government forces do not look as if they can regain lost territory. “We are facing a new reality and a new Iraq,” said Kurdish President Masoud Barzani at the start of his meeting with Mr Kerry in Iraqi Kurdistan. Earlier, he had blamed “the wrong policies” of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s for the violence and called for him to go, saying it was “very difficult” to imagine Iraq staying together.

The Kurds used the opportunity presented by the Isis assault and the disintegration of the Iraqi army in northern Iraq to take over territories disputed with the Arabs in Kirkuk, Nineveh, Salahuddin and Diyala provinces. This is a broad swath of land which is either populated by Kurds or from which Kurds say they were ethnically cleansed by Saddam Hussein and his predecessors. This includes the oilfields of Kirkuk and newly discovered oil or gas fields.

Mr Barzani is in a strong position because his Peshmerga soldiers are the most coherent military force in Iraq as the Iraqi army fails to stop Isis and its allies. It is clear that Isis is not treating the Peshmerga as its main enemy at the moment; though there have been clashes here populations are mixed along what used to be called the “trigger line” running from east of Baghdad on the Iranian frontier to the north-east corner of Syria. The battle for self-determination by the Iraqi Kurds seems close to being won as the Iraqi state founders and is in no position to prevent Kurdish independence. In an interview with CNN, Mr Barzani repeated a threat to hold a referendum on independence, saying it was time for Kurds to decide their own fate.

It is unlikely that Baghdad will in future control much in the Sunni provinces, though its security forces are still fighting to hold part of Baiji refinery after receiving reinforcements by air. Militants launched an attack on one of the government’s largest air bases, known to the Americans as “Camp Anaconda”, less than 65 miles from the capital. The UN says that 1,065 Iraqis were killed in June, but admits that the real figure may be much higher.

Military changes on the ground are outpacing Mr Kerry’s attempt to coax into being a new Iraqi government without Mr Maliki and led by people who can reunite the country. But the moment when this could be done may have already have passed since Baghdad no longer rules much of Iraq to the north and west of the capital. Its national army of 350,000 soldiers is demonstrably not prepared to fight for Iraq as a nation state. The reliance of Mr Maliki on purely Shia militias emphasises that the rump of the Iraqi state can only be defended by sectarian forces – even though Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and the Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr have denied that there is a Shia levée en masse.

For the moment, the Iranians do not want Mr Maliki to be removed on the grounds that this is an American attempt to replace a pro-Iranian prime minister with a pro-American one. The Kurds will probably go a certain distance to accommodate the US. “If they decide to withdraw from the Baghdad political process it will accelerate a lot of the negative trends,” said a senior State Department official.

Mr Kerry said Iraqi leaders must “produce the broad-based, inclusive government that all the Iraqis … are demanding”. But the Kurds, Sunni and Shia of Iraq appear to be fast going their different ways.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of  Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
Timothy Braatz
The Quarterback and the Propaganda
Sheldon Richman
Obama Rewards Israel’s Bad Behavior
Libby Lunstrum - Patrick Bond
Militarizing Game Parks and Marketing Wildlife are Unsustainable Strategies
Andy Thayer
More Cops Will Worsen, Not Help, Chicago’s Violence Problem
Louis Yako
Can Westerners Help Refugees from War-torn Countries?
David Rosen
Rudy Giuliani & Trump’s Possible Cabinet
Joyce Nelson
TISA and the Privatization of Public Services
Pete Dolack
Global Warming Will Accelerate as Oceans Reach Limits of Remediation
Franklin Lamb
34 Years After the Sabra-Shatila Massacre
Cesar Chelala
How One Man Held off Nuclear War
Norman Pollack
Sovereign Immunity, War Crimes, and Compensation to 9/11 Families
Lamont Lilly
Standing Rock Stakes Claim for Sovereignty: Eyewitness Report From North Dakota
Barbara G. Ellis
A Sandernista Priority: Push Bernie’s Planks!
Hiroyuki Hamada
How Do We Dream the Dream of Peace Together?
Russell Mokhiber
From Rags and Robes to Speedos and Thongs: Why Trump is Crushing Clinton in WV
Julian Vigo
Living La Vida Loca
Aidan O'Brien
Where is Europe’s Duterte? 
Abel Cohen
Russia’s Improbable Role in Everything
Ron Jacobs
A Change Has Gotta’ Come
Uri Avnery
Shimon Peres and the Saga of Sisyphus
Graham Peebles
Ethiopian’s Crying out for Freedom and Justice
Robert Koehler
Stop the Killing
Thomas Knapp
Election 2016: Of Dog Legs and “Debates”
Yves Engler
The Media’s Biased Perspective
Victor Grossman
Omens From Berlin
Christopher Brauchli
Wells Fargo as Metaphor for the Trump Campaign
Nyla Ali Khan
War of Words Between India and Pakistan at the United Nations
Tom Barnard
Block the Bunker! Historic Victory Against Police Boondoggle in Seattle
James Rothenberg
Bullshit Recognition as Survival Tactic
Ed Rampell
A Tale of Billionaires & Ballot Bandits
Kristine Mattis
Persnickety Publishing Pet-Peeves
Charles R. Larson
Review: Helen Dewitt’s “The Last Samurai”
David Yearsley
Torture Chamber Music
September 22, 2016
Dave Lindorff
Wells Fargo’s Stumpf Leads the Way
Stan Cox
If There’s a World War II-Style Climate Mobilization, It has to Go All the Way—and Then Some
Binoy Kampmark
Source Betrayed: the Washington Post and Edward Snowden
John W. Whitehead
Wards of the Nanny State
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail