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Iraq Distintegrates
Kurdish Independence: One Day, But Certainly Not Now

The ISIS onslaught shows that now isn’t the time for Kurdish independence. The KRG will be hard-pressed to defend itself and needs all the friends it can get.

Published on: August 8, 2014
Henri J. Barkey is a professor of international relations at Lehigh University.
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  • Andrew Allison

    It’s unclear to me how Baghdad’s obvious need of the support of the Kurds in defending itself against ISIS weakens the Kurds desire for independence.

    • El Gringo

      An independent Kurdistan needs to be able to support itself. At this point, that ability is far from certain. Baghdad May need Kurdish political and military support but the Kurds need Baghdad’s money.

      Once ISIS is defeated and outside support is assured, the Kurds will have no need for Baghdad. But until then, somebody has to pay for the beans and bullets.

      • rheddles

        baghdad is paying for nothing to the kurds. bagdhdad will maintain the saddam policy as it has for the last two years. the kurds could support themselves if we let them sell their oil. perhaps they should sell it to syria as isil does. then obama might like them more.

      • richard40

        If Kurdistan includes some of the Iraqi oil areas, some of which are very close to or even presently in Kurdistan, they could defend themselves. I think it is time we gave them that chance. Unlike all the rest of the treacherous snakes in that area they deserve it.

  • Anthony

    “One final thought: this argument would not preclude limited U.S. action for purely humanitarian purposes – such as humanitarian airdrops for beleaguered religious minorities now threatened with starvation in Iraq. That’s not “deep engagement”; that’s merely trying to help people threatened with imminent death. But I would not send U.S. Forces – including drones or aircraft – out to win a battle that the Iraq government or the Kurds cannot win themselves. The United States spent the better part of a decade chasing that elusive Grail, and the end result was precisely the sort of chaos and sectarian rivalry that has produced this latest crisis….” (Foreign Policy: Do No More Harm)

    • richard40

      The Kurds can win by themselves, or at least they can defend their own area by themselves, since they have been doing it for centuries, even without any outside support. If we gave them some real support, instead of funneling it all through the corrupt Iraqi gov, I bet they would surprise us at how effective they could be.

      • Anthony

        Quote not a Kurd argument pro or con. If interested read article.

  • Nanci Martin

    June 10th debacle … not July 10th.

  • Misanthrope

    Maybe if the Kurds tell Obama they’re Mexican drug gangs he’ll send them some ammo.

  • Pete

    “No one has been able to explain why Maliki would embark on such a perilous course, but he did, ..”

    I don’t know the details but maybe the guy remembers the brutality of the Sunnis when they ran the show. He’s only human.

    • richard40

      But that is the whole problem. A real statesman like Ghandi, Mandella, or Vaclev Havel, would have fairly governed the country, not taken revenge for old quarrels.

      • B-Sabre

        Ghandi still could not prevent the partition of India and Pakistan, and the half million dead that incurred.

        • richard40

          True, but at least Ghandi did his best to prevent the problem, and did not actively contribute to make the problem worse, like Maliki did. I don’t expect perfection, but Maliki was actually part of the problem, and helped cause the problem, not just an innocent bystander.

          • ljgude

            I remember a report of a meeting between Petraeus and Maliki with Bush on a big monitor. Milaki was screaming at Bush to fire Petraeus because he was arming Sunni militias. Bush told him to simmer down. I don’t think Maliki is rally capable of seeing beyond his sectarian view based on a life of being persecuted by Saddam and his Sunni henchmen.

          • richard40

            Yes, its the key difference between a revolutionary and a statesman. When a statesman wins a revolution, he tries to treat his former enemies as justly as he can, prosecuting the worst ones, but leaving the ordinary people on the losing side alone, while a revolutionary who is not a statesman will only want revenge for past injuries, against both the guilty and the innocent on the losing side.

  • mark abrams

    The US seems committed to a single Iraqi state (probably controlled by Iran) and to that end all aid, including military, goes to the Malaki government, which passes none on to the Kurds. And that is why the Kurds have no heavy weaponry or sufficient ammunition. The fact that the Kurds can and do fight and win while the Iraqi army flees and loses mean nothing to the Obama administration. They seem to prefer a unified and defeated pro-Iranian Iraqi state and a triumphant ISIS to a victorious and pro-western autonomous Kurdistan.

    • Andrew Allison

      It does seem as though the US would do better to send munitions to the Kurds, who seem prepared to use them rather thanabandon to ISIS. How many more stories of US aircraft destroying ISIS convoys of US Humvees and other equipment must we endure.

    • richard40

      Agree completely. The traitorous Iraqi gov can go to hades. Lets give all our aid directly to the Kurds, since they will know how to properly use it, and they are some of the few Muslims that actually like Americans.

  • Nov-cubed

    With friends like Baghdad, the Kurds might as well slit their own throats.

    You’re flat out wrong on the oil revenue. You do not account for the high corruption “royalty” Bugdud imposes on gross revenue.

    ===>This has something to do with the much-improved relations between Ankara and ErbilBaghdad has authorized the Iraqi air force to fly supporting missions for the Kurds, but this is far from sufficient.<===

    Bugdud has also authorized the total destruction of ISIS. SO WHAT?

  • qariwa55

    One flaw in Barkey’s argument is that he overlooks considerable benefits of independence: (1) increased opportunities to buy arms from the USA and other countries, (2) decrease in red tape (even trivial things have to go through Baghdad), (3) more access to aid and loan programs, and many more. Overall, current ties to Baghdad are already more of a drag than a benefit. I suspect it would not take long for income from oil (and natural gas!) to surpass the current 17% allotment — not to mention that the Kurds would not have to worry about Baghdad cutting off their oil income. The Turks would benefit so much from the flow of Kurdish oil through Turkish pipelines that they would have little reason to be adversarial, so long as the Iraqi Kurds remain pragmatic enough to avoid stirring up Turkey’s Kurdish population. Barkey is undoubtedly right that “now” is not the time if he means by “now” “RIGHT now” while the battles with ISIS continue. But I do think that the right time is a lot sooner than he thinks.

  • Breif2

    There is a school of thought in Israel that posits that Israel must at all times maintain unassailable military dominance and cannot afford to demonstrate any weakness. Why? Because otherwise the U.S. will consider it a burden and either abandon it or pressure it into harmful positions. I can’t imagine where they get this nutty idea from. [/sarcasm]

  • George1111

    Iran and Turkey could be convinced of supporting an independent Kurdistan if they decide to use it to encourage emigration of their restive Kurdish populations to Kurdistan. It might end the same as when Israel was created. At that time there were significant Jewish settlements in all the Arab countries in the area and now almost all of them have emigrated out of there. Of course the best solution for Iran and Turkey would be to integrate their Kurds as equal citizens but the possibility of they realizing that is almost zero. Maybe an amicable separation would be the second best in that case.

  • richard40

    So let me get this straight. Despite being on the short end of the supply stick from the Iraqi gov, the Kurds seem to be the only ones fighting effectively, and are even having to defend Iraqi gov areas. Enough of this “aiding the Iraqi gov” bs. From now on lets give all out help directly to the Kurds, ammo, heavy weapons, and airstrikes. They are trustworthy, and have the courage and ability to use it properly. And I would not be upset at all if this leads to an independent Kurdistan. The Kurds seem to be much better people than any of the other governments around them.

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