In the Arena

Kurdish Ways

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Matt Yglesias usually has a lot of smart things to say about foreign policy, but his takedown of David Ignatius’s column on the Kurds isn’t as acute as usual. It isn’t even accurate. Matt claims that Ignatius doesn’t mention the looming crisis in Kirkuk, but he does:

A flash point is Kirkuk, an oil-rich city claimed by the Kurds, which the Turks regard as a special protectorate because of its large Turkmen population. The new Iraqi constitution calls for a referendum by December on the city’s future, and the Kurds are confident they will win the vote. The Turks, fearing the same outcome, want the referendum delayed. The Bush administration seems to favor a delay but hasn’t said so publicly, to avoid angering the Kurds and undermining the constitution.

For the record, what makes the Ignatius column worthy is his compilation of recent sabre-rattling from both the Kurds and Turks–Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani warned that if the Turks meddled in Kirkuk, “then we will take action for the 30 million Kurds in Turkey.”–and the possibility that Turkey will invade by the end of April. Also newsworthy is the account of Kurdish-Iranian tensions:

Kurdish sources report that the Iranians have recently shelled Kurdish targets inside Iraq and that Iranian-backed Islamic groups have attacked border posts in northern Iraq. The Iranians want to destabilize Kurdistan, partly to damage America’s wider policy aims in Iraq, Kurdish officials argue.

Final point, for more than six months Richard Holbrooke and others have been suggesting that we place a blocking force on the Turkish-Kurdish border to dissuade an invasion by the Turks and incursions by the Kurdish guerrilla group, PKK. If the scenario favored by Baker-Hamilton and the wise core of bipartisan Senators had been enacted, those troops would be sitting peacefully on the Turkish border right now, instead of taking fire in Baghdad.

Matt also links to Scott McLeod’s post about Kurdistan on Time’s mideast blog. Good call.