Thursday, December 07, 2006

Kurds and Israelis unhappy with the turn of events

Kurdish television said that a leader of one of the two big Kurdish parties (Barzani's party, the other is led by Talabani) urged Kurdish leaders to declare the independence of Kurdistan as of this coming March 21, which is new-years. The official, who is also Minister of Culture in the Kurdistan regional government, said such a move would "strengthen the Kurdish position in the regional calculations," and he said: "The treatment of Kurdistan by the central [Iraqi] goverment has not been in keeping with the contributions that we have made to the political process in Iraq, moreover the American administration aims at disregarding the Kurdish importance in local and regional equations. For these reasons, it is incumbent on the Kurdish leadership to go to the Kurdish parliament and have the Kurdish people declare, via their elected representatives, the realities that exist on the ground, and [declare] that they are raising the threshhold of their demands to independence." This report, on the website of KNNTV, notes however that he added: It is not necessary that they declare indendence hastily, but rather that they confirm that that this is a right of the Kurdish leadership".

The report explains that this was an expression of Kurdish anxiety over the fact that Bush invited Hakim (Shiite) and Hashimi (Sunni arab) to have strategic discussions in Washington, something seen as a marginalization or disregard of Kurdish interests. It preceded release of the Baker report.

Since the issuance of the Baker report, I haven't found expressions of official Kurdish reaction however you can perhaps get the flavor of the reaction from the title of this piece on Is Baker an American or a Turk, complaining that the report takes a one-sided approach to the PKK-Turkish conflict, and had nothing to say on the theme of Kurdish self-determination.

(ADDED NOTE: Since posting this, the Elaph Iraq reporter Osama Mahdi, who never sleeps, filed a report that included statements by Kurdistan president Barzani critical of the report. Barzani said at a press conference in Erbil that the Baker commission didn't visit the Kurdish region, and didn't listen to the opinions of Kurds. He adds that of the $20 billion the US has spent on Iraq, only $600 million was spent in Kurdistan. Barzani said there will be a joint commission (apparently meaning including all the Kurdish parties) that will start meeting within the month and will draw up a list of projects they will ask the US to implement. He also said he opposes any quick US troop-withdrawal. Even though there aren't any US troops in Kurdistan, he said, a quick withdrawal from elsewhere would have a negative effect on the country.

The Elaph report says another government spokesman said a detailed critique will be issued soon.)

The other dissent comes from Israel, where Prime Minister Olmert rejected the idea of any linkage between Iraq and the Israel-Palestine issue.

(The above-noted Elaph account says SCIRI leader Hakim also criticized the Baker report for including the idea of linkage between Iraq and the Palestinian question, thus rounding out the trio of staunch supporters of the existing Bush policy: Kurdistan and SCIRI, the two proponents of strong federal regions; and Israel in the background).

At the other end of the Mideast spectrum of opinions, Al-Quds al-Arabi said in its lead editorial that the Baker report was "useful" because it constituted the first admission of American defeat in Iraq and the need to withdraw. But the editorialist complained on three points: (1) The report failed to focus on the need to negotiate with the resistance. He says it is the resistance, in all of its various groupings, that has been responsible for the failure of the occupation project, and you don't solve a situation like that until you quit fighting and talk. He cited the experience of the British with the IRA. (2) The focus on a role for Iran and Syria showed a dangerous lack of attention to the position of the (other) Arab regimes in the area, particularly considering the Iraqi government is already pro-Iranian and has failed to create anything but a sectarian administration. (3) With respect to Palestine, the failure to say anything about "Israeli terrorism" and the US administration's tacit acceptance of that, gives the impression that this was merely a pro forma repetition of generalities.


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