Byline: Carole A. O'Leary, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The millions of people who reside in the Kurdish safe haven - carved out of Iraqi Kurdistan in 1991 - believe that they are today living in a golden age, thanks largely to the U.S.-imposed northern no-fly zone that has permitted an unprecedented flowering of democracy, pluralism and human rights. At the same time, they are worried about the effects of regime change in a post-Saddam Iraq, particularly the frightening prospect of a scramble for power in their region. Policy-makers should have similar concerns as they contemplate the forcible removal of Saddam; there is a serious risk that such a move could constitute jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire, with potentially disastrous implications for foreign policy. Accordingly, policy-makers need to give serious consideration to the solution to the problem of destabilization in Iraq after regime change that has been embraced by virtually all of the Iraqi opposition groups - federalism.
The Iraqi National Congress (INC) has consistently supported the creation of a unified, federal and democratic post-Saddam Iraq. Even the Tehran-based Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) has recently clarified its position on federalism, arguing that there is a precedent in Islam for this form of governance. In fact, one can make the case that federalism has already been established in Iraq. The Kurdish safe haven under the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is, for all intents and purposes, a federal political unit. Regime change will simply connect this entity to a new central government.
Federalism is a system of government in which power is divided between a central authority and constituent political units. In some multi-cultural states like Switzerland, the constituent political units are defined not only geographically but also culturally - on the basis of language, ethnicity, religion or tribe. Federalism as an organizing structure for governance can promote stability in multi-cultural states through the establishment of political units whose relationship to the center is defined in a governing document that provides written principles concerning structures and rules for governance, and appropriation of federal funds.
A key consideration for the Bush administration and Congress is Turkey's position on Iraq's Kurdish question and federalism. It is well known that Turkey has consistently opposed the creation of an independent Kurdish state. More recently, however, Turkey has put forth mixed messages on the question of federalism and autonomy for the Kurds in a post-Saddam Iraq. One message has been that Turkey will not oppose the reorganization of Iraq along federal lines, as long as Mosul and the oil-rich city of Kirkuk are not ceded to a permanent Kurdistan regional governorate. …