Compromising Provisions

Article excerpt

Like Gaul, Iraq appears destined--by the will of Washington--to be divided into as many as three parts. Generated even before the Gulf war, when Turgut Ozal captained Trkey's ship of state and George Bush skippered U.S. policy, the plan envisioned a Kurdish north (excluding the Kirkuk oilfields) a Turkmen-led mid-section (including Kirkuk and giving Turkey more control over the flow of Iraqi oil) and leftovers for the Arab population. But alas, the foibles of fate interceded. Ozal didn't plan on dying and Bush didn't plan on losing the presidency. And the plan was modified. It now looks like a Kurdish north, a Sunni mid-section and a Shiite south. Note of late the increasing activity of Iraqi Shiite opposition, no doubt based perhaps on intimations that they will be rewarded for so doing. Of course, as with the Kurds, even a back-room hint of Washington's support for their aspirations is alluring. The trouble is that the Administration has a habit of telling groups what they want to hear to get them to do what Washington needs in support of its larger agenda. Unfortunately for the groups, their aims and those of Washington rarely coincide in terms of the end game.

A telling example that this may well be the case began with an item we printed in the previous issue of Kurdish Life. Talabani's PUK had released to a Kurdish newsgroup details of their Washington-engineered September 1998 agreement with Barzani's KDP, in all likelihood details largely for Kurdish consumption. Two provisions stood out. One provided for a federal Kurdish state in northern Iraq and the other for the state to have its own security forces to protect its borders. (See KL 28, Fall 1998).

We have since received a PUK newsletter containing the formal agreement, i.e. for public consumption. It is noteworthy that neither of provisions are mentioned. What does appear tells a different story with this emphasis: "We affirm the territorial integrity and unity of Iraq. The three northern provinces of Dohuk, Erbil and Sulaimaniyah are part of the Iraqi State. Both the KDP and the PUK unequivocally accept the recognized international boundaries of Iraq."

But as we have been taught of late by President Clinton, the devil lurks in the word. And the key word here is "international." Washington has long claimed to respect Iraq's territorial integrity. What Washington means is that the U.S. does not intend to cede Iraqi territory to a neighboring country, to divide Iraq externally. The plan has always been to carve up Iraq internally. Be sure that while it may retain its name, it will be Iraq in name only. When Gulf states speak of territorial integrity, they mean one thing. The United States means another.

The September agreement is noteworthy as well because it simultaneously reveals why Iraqi Kurdish parties were initially recruited by Washington and how they have been earning their keep at the expense of the PKK in particular. Take, for example, this stipulation: "The HCC [Higher Co-ordination Committee] will ensure that both parties co-operate to prevent violations of the Turkish and Iranian borders. It will establish reasonable screening procedures to control the flow or [sic} people across these borders and prohibit the movement of terrorists. Both parties, working with the HCC, will deny sanctuary to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) throughout the Iraqi Kurdistan region. They will ensure that there are no PKK bases within this area. They will prevent the PKK from destabilizing and undermining the peace or from violating the Turkish border."

Doubtless to further ingratiate themselves with Washington, in the agreement Barzani and Talabani expressed their gratitude to Ankara: "Both parties also welcome the continuing engagement of the governments of Turkey and the United Kingdom in the peace and reconciliation process. …