Sunday, July 16, 2006

Can the Kurds save Iraq?

The one tiny ray of light in the bloody mess that is the Iraqi civil war is that, so far, the Kurds have kept out of it. Is it possible that, as the violence continues to tear the country apart, that the Kurds could succeed in holding the factions back from the brink of all-out civil war?

Juan Cole suggests they might:

The Iraqis are at the brink of hot civil war again. It is one thing for people to be blown up indiscriminately by car bombers. It is quite another for neighborhood- or mosque-based militiamen to set up checkpoints in a nearby district and pull people out of their cars and homes, examine their identity cards for tell-tale family names and places of birth, and shoot them dead on the spot for being from the wrong sect of Islam.[...]

What if Kurdish troops were deployed in Baghdad under an Iraqi military command? The Kurds are not Arabs at all. They might be able to function as honest brokers between Sunni Arabs and Shiite Arabs. It is true that most of them are Sunnis. But most Kurds aren't Islamists and a lot of them belong to mystical Sufi orders or to socialist political parties. So their Sunnism isn't of a sort that would make them favor the Sunni Arabs. And, they had suffered a lot from some high Sunni Arabs in the Saddam regime. On the other hand, they are unlikely to tilt toward a hyper-Shiite group like Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.

But would the Kurds do it? A spokesman for the Kurdistan Democratic Party is saying, "yes." He said that the deteriorating security situation in the capital "provokes the anxiety of the Kurdish parties, who fear that this escalation will lead to the widening of the scope of sectarian violence, will affect the situation in Kurdistan."

Adnan Dulaimi of the (Sunni fundamentalist) Iraqi Accord Front said only that the suggestion needed to be studied. It is clear that the Sunni Arabs would prefer the Kurdish troops to the special police commandos of the Interior Ministry, whom they consider little more than death squads.

Wishful thinking perhaps -- the Kurdish peshmerga is already spread very thinly keeping the north relatively violence free, and many Kurds still have deep scores to settle with Arab Iraqis. But for the sake of the Iraqi people, this may be the only hope they have.

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