[PORK] Kurds--Liberation Allies or Next Years Palistinians

johnhall johnhall@isomedia.com
Fri, 21 Mar 2003 10:41:25 -0800


There are 3 or 4 points in here that simply don't match everything else
I know.

First, there is no possibility of "A Billion a month" the kurdish
leadership is skimming off of oil sales.  It ain't there.

The other is that the Turkmen aren't nearly as populous as the Kurds,
though there is some dispute on how populous they are.

I'm perfectly willing to believe that the Kurds are both jerks and
people who have been screwed over.  But I wouldn't trust this author.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: fork-admin@xent.com [mailto:fork-admin@xent.com] On Behalf Of R.
A.
> Hettinga
> Sent: Wednesday, March 19, 2003 1:52 PM
> To: fork@xent.com
> Subject: Re: [PORK] Kurds--Liberation Allies or Next Years
Palistinians
> 
> <http://online.wsj.com/article_print/0,,SB104803694263927600,00.html>
> 
> The Wall Street Journal
> 
> March 19, 2003
> 
> COMMENTARY
> 
> Beware of the Kurds
> 
> By MELIK KAYLAN
> 
> Some miles over the border into the Saddam-controlled part of Northern
> Iraq, a local contact told me that Saddam Hussein has placed tanks and
> explosives in narrow streets to maximize collateral damage. He has
also
> forcibly billeted troops and loyalist cadres in civilian homes in
> readiness for street fighting -- and to prevent the populace from
fleeing.
> Saddam has done this in neighborhoods mostly populated by the Turkmen
and
> Assyrian Christian minorities, whom he has repressed and decimated.
His
> troops, though, are unlikely to survive their hosts' ire once the
shooting
> starts.
> 
> * * *
> 
> Back across the border in the Kurdish zone I returned to Irbil, the
> stronghold of Massoud Barzani, the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP)
chief.
> (Barzani sports a silent-movie moustache above a chubby figure and has
a
> way with native headwrapping that rivals Yasser Arafat.) I have been
> living here in the guise of a businessman. Not being registered as a
> journalist means I don't need a KDP minder "for my protection." In the
> age-old fashion, such minders have a distinct influence on what
foreign
> journalists see and think. In this case, journalists have not noted
the
> nefarious activities of the Kurdish authorities in charge of the
northern
> "no-fly" zone. Perhaps the media think that it's all too
inside-baseball
> for readers back home. That is a mistake. Within days, the Kurds could
be
> in charge of the oil towns of Kirkuk and Mosul, and their habits of
> government will matter very much.
> 
> Here's a likely scenario: As the Turks agonize over their role in the
> imminent conflict, the Kurds are gearing up to go ahead without them.
> There are signs that the U.S. intends to use the Kurdish militias as a
> "Northern Alliance" to open a second front against Saddam. A number of
> such irregulars were recently caught inside Saddam territory in
> preparation for a Kurdish uprising around the oil towns. Saddam's
northern
> 5th Army Corps is starving and demoralized, so it's likely to offer
little
> resistance. (Top defectors try to come across daily, but no one wants
> them.) In short, the Kurds could succeed quickly. If so, they would
> integrate into their northern zone a population of Turkmens and
Assyrians
> that would almost match their own -- and for a while, perhaps for a
long
> while, they would rule over them. Their treatment of those minorities
to
> date in their own preponderantly Kurdish zone suggests it won't work,
> especially once the balance of numbers change. Result: a potential
>   civil war and a major headache for the U.S.
> 
> Consider the Turkmens, whose total Iraqi population is not much less
than
> the Kurds. I witnessed a "spontaneous" stone-throwing riot against
their
> party headquarters by a Kurdish mob in Irbil, which the KDP offered to
> dispel by occupying the premises. The Turkmens refused, as the KDP
have a
> passion for invading and looting their offices. Some nights later, KDP
> commandos occupied the high-points around Turkmen office buildings and
> pointed Kalashnikovs at the guards. Turkmen officials are detained
without
> charge, their homes looted anonymously. At times they are forbidden to
> hang their calendars or listen to their radio station in public.
Fixated
> on the Kurds as the definitive minority of the region, the wider media
> notes nothing of the Turkmens' plight. Yet, they have perhaps suffered
> more than any other group in the region.
> 
> Saddam used them as cannon fodder in the Iran-Iraq war. Many were
taken
> prisoner by the Iranians. Others escaped to Irbil, leaving behind
> relatives at Saddam's mercy. Saddam in turn has tortured and killed
those
> unfortunates for having "foreign" connections. Now the Irbil exiles
are
> stuck with Barzani -- dubbed "Mini Saddam" -- who also treats them as
> spies for the Turks. Barzani's rival-cum-uneasy confederate, who rules
the
> other official Kurdish zone as strongman of the Patriotic Union of
> Kurdistan (PUK), is a mite more civilized, though insidious. He
refused
> minority-language TV channels, for example, on grounds that he
couldn't
> protect them adequately. The Turkmens, for their part, dream of
> repatriation to Kirkuk and Mosul and for safer conditions in the
interim,
> perhaps from their ethnic cousins the Turks. That help has not arrived
for
> decades and may not yet, due to Ankara's indecision. And the outcome
may
> be a nightmare for Turkey and Turkmens alike -- a Kurds' entity
>  flush with oil money but with no checks on power in their region. The
> Kurds have moved to accomplish this by excluding Turkmen and Assyrian
> participation in Iraqi opposition conferences and by stoking fear of
the
> Turks through state-ordered marches against the Turkish army's "evil
> designs" on Kurdish terrain. I say state-ordered because I have read
the
> documents. (One would think that it's plain for all to see that, but
for
> their American allies, the Turks want to dodge the whole matter, even
at
> the cost of sacrificing the Turkmens.) It's ironic that Barzani should
> incite such ardor for the "sacred Kurdish soil" which he occupied with
> Saddam's armor in 1996. Soon after, he rounded up Turkmen and Assyrian
> leaders and handed them over to Saddam's spies. None returned.
> 
> Behind the rhetoric, Barzani's new-found pan-Kurdish nationalism is
> pragmatic. Any change in the status quo brought on by Turkish or
American
> forces breaks his monopoly on trade and smuggling revenues and
threatens
> his financial hold over the mercurial Kurdish tribes. Until the trade
in
> oil with Iraq stopped a few days ago -- after Turkey closed the border
--
> Barzani made nearly a billion dollars a month on transit "taxes." His
> family takes a cut from all trade in tobacco, textiles, tea, alcohol
and
> medicines. None of this bodes well for his future governance in a
wider
> Kurdish area. It is an open secret here that he has allowed Iraqi
> intelligence to operate under cover, and that Saddam's family and
friends
> have regularly visited here -- after all, Barzani and Saddam's son,
Qusay,
> co-own the local firm that traded in U.N.-sanctioned oil. Word has it
that
> Barzani helped pay for Iraq's 5th Army around the northern oil towns
in
> case he needed them again to prop up his regime. No
>   wonder he opposes foreign armies on his soil.
> 
> * * *
> 
> Of late there's been a feast of finger-wagging among Western mea-culpa
> circles to the tune of "I tell you, in the end, we will betray the
Kurds
> again." Barzani himself mentions it in speeches. It's certainly true
that
> any tribal groups the West begins by romanticizing, it ends by
spurning.
> Their otherness first attracts, then repels. Witness T.E. Lawrence and
the
> tribal Arabs, the mythologizing of the Afghan Pathans, and now the
Kurds.
> Ultimately the truth sinks in and the West realizes that the natives
were
> never ready for primetime. The Kurds are certainly in for a letdown if
> their brave new autonomous zone comes under proper scrutiny. The
idyllic
> statelet-in-waiting we keep reading about is a venue for well-oiled
> warlordism. Telephone calls are monitored. Armed checkpoints pepper
the
> roads. Property is easily confiscated. Loyalties are bought and sold
by
> the tribeful. Rights don't exist except when forcibly backed by fellow
> tribesmen. Often that is not enough: Just days ag
>  o Barzani purged the entire Hoshnave tribe southwest of Irbil, who,
after
> a daylong firefight, left with their wounded to the PUK region in a
convoy
> of 100 vehicles. In the weeks I've been here, I've learned the last
thing
> local leaders want, or intend to employ, is democracy and the rule of
law.
> Western allies, and Turkey, would do well to anticipate the
consequences.
> 
> Mr. Kaylan, a New York-based writer, is completing a history of
Istanbul.
> He is currently in northern Iraq.
> 
> 
> --
> -----------------
> R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah@ibuc.com>
> The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
> 44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
> "... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
> [predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
> experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'