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

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nasty As They Wanna Be
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists
Andrew Levine
Trump’s Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch
Chris Welzenbach
The Forgotten Sneak Attack
Lewis Lapham
Hostile Takeover
Joshua Frank
This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations
Paul Street
The Democrats Do Their Job, Again
Vijay Prashad
The Cuban Revolution: Defying Imperialism From Its Backyard
Michael Hudson - Sharmini Peries
Orwellian Economics
Mark Ames
The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying
Erin McCarley
American Nazis and the Fight for US History
Yoav Litvin
Resist or Conform: Lessons in Fortitude and Weakness From the Israeli Left
Conn Hallinan
India & Pakistan: the Unthinkable
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Nativism on the Left – A Realer Smith
Joshua Sperber
Trump in the Age of Identity Politics
Brandy Baker
Jill Stein Sees Russia From Her House
Katheryne Schulz
Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s Rebellious Life
Nelson Valdes
Fidel and the Good People
Norman Solomon
McCarthy’s Smiling Ghost: Democrats Point the Finger at Russia
Renee Parsons
The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration
Margaret Kimberley
Black Fear of Trump
Michael J. Sainato
A Pruitt Running Through It: Trump Kills Nearly Useless EPA With Nomination of Oil Industry Hack
Ron Jacobs
Surviving Hate and Death—The AIDS Crisis in 1980s USA
David Swanson
Virginia’s Constitution Needs Improving
Louis Proyect
Narcos and the Story of Colombia’s Unhappiness
Paul Atwood
War Has Been, is, and Will be the American Way of Life…Unless?
John Wight
Syria and the Bodyguard of Lies
Richard Hardigan
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Senate Bill Criminalizes Criticism of Israel
Kathy Kelly
See How We Live
David Macaray
Trump Picks his Secretary of Labor. Ho-Hum.
Howard Lisnoff
Interview with a Political Organizer
Yves Engler
BDS and Anti-Semitism
Adam Parsons
Home Truths About the Climate Emergency
Brian Cloughley
The Decline and Fall of Britain
Eamonn Fingleton
U.S. China Policy: Is Obama Schizoid?
Graham Peebles
Worldwide Air Pollution is Making us Ill
Joseph Natoli
Fake News is Subjective?
Andre Vltchek
Tough-Talking Philippine President Duterte
Binoy Kampmark
Total Surveillance: Snooping in the United Kingdom
Guillermo R. Gil
Vivirse la película: Willful Opposition to the Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
Patrick Bond
South Africa’s Junk Credit Rating was Avoided, But at the Cost of Junk Analysis
Clancy Sigal
Investigate the Protesters! A Trial Balloon Filled With Poison Gas
Pierre Labossiere – Margaret Prescod
Human Rights and Alternative Media Delegation Report on Haiti’s Elections
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
David Yearsley
Brahms and the Tears of Britain’s Oppressed
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail