Friday, July 04, 2014

I Don't Know How Great It Is; But It's a Game

I still think that Iraq will be a more difficult problem to solve if the Kurds declare independence. But if Turkey truly is fine with an independent Kurdistan, this eliminates a major reason the Kurds shouldn't want independence. And it gives Assad and the Iranian mullahs heartburn. But I still don't like the idea now.

Huh (tip to Mad Minerva):

As the spokesman indicated, one of Turkey’s longstanding worries was the destabilizing influence an independent Kurdistan would have on its own ethnic Kurds. But plans are now in place to bring that decades-long internal conflict to an end, making it less of a concern.

This new respect goes both ways as well. A high-ranking Kurdish official stated that Iraqi Kurdistan would not declare independence without “continuous, fraternal consultation” with Ankara.

Apparently, Erdogan's political calculations are leading him to be Kurd-friendly:

The even split between Erdogan and the main opposition means that Turkey's Kurds will be the kingmakers. For them, any concern over Erdogan's authoritarian bent pales next to securing an independent Kurdish state in Iraq and a better deal for themselves in Turkey. Erdogan is letting them know he is the man to deliver both.

Which is similar to why I want the Kurds to stay in a unified (if loosely run) Iraq. The Sunni Arabs would be more easily kept within the Iraqi political system to keep the Shias relatively cooperative if the Kurds are there to be lobbied by both Shia factions and the Sunni Arabs for support in parliament.

So yeah, for Iraq I think it is bad to partition the country in the belief that doing so allows us to avoid fighting enemies. When things are peaceful, it could be as easy as Czechoslovakia splitting up. When it isn't peaceful, think Yugoslavia.

The Kurds, too, must be careful. My main point about the Kurds not wanting to split from Iraq was that doing so against Iraq's will would put a landlocked Kurdistan in the middle of a hostile Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran.

Even if Turkey manages to keep their own Kurds happy with their new place within Turkey, what about the Kurds of Syria and Iran? Won't they feel the pull of joining the Iraq-based Kurdistan to escape their masters in Damascus and Tehran?

Even as Turkey said they'd be okay with Kurdish independence, the Turks warned the Kurds that Kurdistan would need to stay on the good side of Turkey. Will Iraq's Kurds be able to pay that price?

As a potential counter-weight to a Turkey that might exploit their position as Kurdistan's outlet to the world, the Kurds would be wise to court Iraq as a friend. The Kurds need an outlet to the outside world and if they have but one, the Kurds are at that one's mercy. Even two is risky. How happy are we to have Pakistan and Russia as our land lines of communication to and from Afghanistan?

If Turkey keeps good relations with a new Kurdistan, it also opens possibilities from repairing the damage that Erdogan did to Israeli-Turkish relations. Turkey's outreach to Iran becomes more difficult to sustain if Iran sees Turkey complicating Iran's own colonial relationship with Iran's Kurds.

Turkey's acceptance of Kurdish independence makes the division of Iraq less bad. But I still think it is a mistake from our point of view, anyway. And even if on balance it is good for Iraq's Kurds, for the most part Kurdistan within Iraq would be just trading one set of problems for another possibly less difficult set of problems as independent Kurdistan.