What now for the Kurds of Iraq?

The speed of events in Iraq is astonishing and frightening. The actions of the Shia government in Baghdad have assisted the insurgents in the Sunni-dominated north of the country. Meanwhile the Kurds in the largely autonomous north-east have moved quickly to take over control of Kirkuk.

Some commentators have blamed “Western policy” for the present catastrophe, but my friend Gary Kent – who has visited Kurdish Iraq many times – has written on his Facebook page:

“Western policy…created the disaster facing the Iraqi people.” Fine but which one? Here’s a list of some options: Sykes-Picot [Agreement of 1916]; forcing the Kurds into Iraq; treating them like dispensable pawns in the Cold War; selling them out in 1975; siding with Saddam against the Kurds and Iran; ignoring or denying Halabja; liberating Kuwait but leaving Saddam in power; failure to enforce UN resolutions for 12 years; saving the Kurds with the no-fly zone; seeking the disbandment of the Peshmerga in 2003 and forcing the Kurds to leave Kirkuk; botched occupation; the surge that helped avert full-scale civil war; premature withdrawal of US forces in 2011; failure to uphold and promote federalism; non-intervention in Syria which allowed Assad to strengthen his grip; failure to punish his use of chemical weapons; failure to support moderate Syrian opposition.

All political problems have history and the problems of the Middle East have more of it than most.


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