Thursday, January 31, 2008

Don't Go All Loopy On Us

As I look in Iraq for the next threat to arise after the Saddam regime, Saddam henchmen, Sunni Arab nationalists, domestic jihadis and al Qaeda supported by Syria, and Iranian-supported Shia thugs have been checked or defeated, I keep looking for the next threat that might interrupt our path to victory.

Absent a decision by Iran or Syria to openly attack Iraq, the Kurds still seem like the most likely source of a problem:

The Iraqi government, to protest a South Korean deal to develop oil fields for the local Kurdish government in northern Iraq, has cut oil shipments to South Korea. These shipments account for about four percent of the oil South Korea imports. The Kurds are determined to go forwards with developing oil deposits in territory they control, and the Arabs to the south are not capable to stopping them, yet. In another 4-5 years, the Iraqi Arabs will have built armed forces capable of forcing the Kurds to obey, repeating a pattern that has persisted for over a thousand years.

The Kurds need to be careful. I can understand their wanting to get as much as they can while they can. But the Kurds simply cannot thrive as an independent country. They are landlocked and surrounded by Turkey, Iran, and Iraq, who would all be very unhappy at the prospect of an independent Kurdish state. And so unlikely to let the Kurds trade through their territory.

And if the Kurds think they can count on our support in a clash with Baghdad, they can forget it. We had a common enemy--Saddam. And as long as the Kurds negotiate within Iraq, they can count on considerable backing from us to be treated well. But if we have to choose our allies in Baghdad or our allies in the Kurdish zone, we will choose Baghdad. We won't allow an Iraqi campaign of poison gassing and genocide to settle the question of the status of the Kurds, but we won't stop Iraq from ending Kurdish independence. And without our air power, the Kurds will have no more luck with defending their land than they had before the Persian Gulf War led to our no-fly zones that protected them in the 1990s.

The Kurds have achieved so much. And I'm happy for them. The reality of their history has been misery. Their current success is astounding given their history. But I hope they don't go all loopy on us with delusions of grandeur. Reality will not be kind to them if they succumb to reaching too far.