Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Kurds - Iran's Palestinians

If the Kurd/Sunni/Shiite coalition in Iraq collapses, Israel gets a great chance to undermine Iran.

The reports of Iraqi civil war are still premature, but there's only so much sectarian slaughter the three communities will tolerate before
breaking apart:
Iraq's leaders have just months to mend their differences or see their country collapse, the speaker of parliament told wrangling deputies yesterday after a car bomb caused dozens of casualties during the morning rush hour.

The United Iraqi Alliance, the dominant Shi'ite parliamentary bloc, is promoting a "law of regional formation" so that the oil-rich Shi'ite south can win self-rule on the model of the autonomous Kurdish north.

Sunni lawmakers have vociferously opposed the draft law on autonomous regions, saying it is a prelude to a carving up of the country, which would leave them with just the resources-poor center and west of Iraq.

Yup. And Sunni terrorists make the point more directly:

Eight persons were killed and at least 38 wounded when a car bomb blasted a busy road in the mainly Shi'ite Qahira district of northern Baghdad during the morning rush hour, said police, who also fear a surge in violence later this week when hundreds of thousands of Shi'ites mark a religious festival.
Iraq will split if the Sunni murder campaign continues - as it may given the Shi'ite counter-murder campaign.

Iraq splitting won't be the end of the world - the nation was invented by the Brits in the 1920s to tidy up remnants of the Ottoman Empire, so there's no strong national identity.

The big winners of the split would be
the Kurdish people (my ellipsis):

Kurdistan is a mountainous region of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, inhabited predominantly by Kurds including 27-28 million people in a ...74,000 sq. mi...area, while according to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, it includes a 390,000 kmĀ² area.

Others estimate as many as 40 million Kurds live in Kurdistan, which covers an area as big as France.

There's a useful map of the Kurdistan here (scroll down) - you'll see they cover the northern part of Iraq, about 20% of Turkey, parts of northern Syria, and the northern 10% of Iran. Not unreasonably, they want their own nation.

The Kurdish part of Iraq flourished for 10 years under the no-fly zone, and after the liberation Kurds took control of a big slab of Iraq's oil. It's now the most militarily and economically advanced state in the area.

That makes the Turks unhappy because their Kurds have been fighting an IRA-style independence campaign for years and if the Iraqi Kurdish province becomes a state, the Turks may make a grab for it to stop their own Kurds seceding.

That's where Israel comes in. A Kurdish nation would destroy the territorial integrity of its two big enemies - Syria and Iran. To avoid alienating Turkey - a fragile ally of Israel - Turkey's Kurds could be helped to move to territories in Iran and Syria. They'd have at least as much right to the parts of Iran they'd occupy as the Palestinians claim in Israel.

Supporting the Kurds has always made sense for Israel, but it's had its hands tied by the US commitment to create a free and unified Iraq. But if Iraq dissolves, Israeli support of the Kurds would not be perceived as unfriendly by the US.

By arming ex-Iraqi Kurdistan to the teeth, Israel would be playing the same card as Iran plays with Hizbollah and the Palestinians. And by giving Kurds the means to liberate swathes of Iran and interdict its oil, they'll speed up the collapse of the Mullahs.

I hope there are US and Israeli planners working to achieve this - the Kurds deserve their place in the sun.