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Interview on Iraqi Kurdistan and the Situation in Iraq

Question: What is your point of view on Iraq's near-term future? Will U.S. policy fail? And if so, will Iraq be divided?

Answer: The U.S. policy succeeded in removing Saddam Hussein, which was very important to the Kurds in Iraq. But further U.S. policy will fail if it seeks to destroy the secular and socially progressive aspects of the Iraqi culture, which include health care delivery, high literacy rates, education for girls as well as boys, etc.

Hussein provided those social policies but the style of his political organization was fascist. These policies are best assured under a Western-style democracy, which implies that Iraqis should not vote merely according to the group that they think they belong to. Moreover, in Germany and other Western democracies, certain parties that seek to overturn the democratic basis of the state are not allowed to participate in elections. This then raises the legitimate question, whether parties seeking to create a theocratic state in Iraq should be excluded from participating in Iraqi political life.

Question: The Arab countries are abandoning their silence on Iraq. Saudi Arabia and Jordan are both expressing concern and have invited the president of the Kurdish region Massoud Barzani to visit. How do you interpret president Barzani’s visit to these countries?

Answer: Barzani's visit is in the perspective of reassurances from the Arab countries, particularly Saudi Arabia and Jordan, that Sunni Muslims in Iraq should not left unprotected, to be crushed under an Iranian-style Shiite majority.

Question: Iraqi Kurdistan is a part of Iraq its totally different from the rest of the country: it is a safe and stable region which an evolving democracy, and commerce and free market. That being the case, do you think this region can play an effective role in developing Iraq?

Answer: A safe and stable Kurdish region in Iraq can play an important and effective role not only in helping development in Iraq but also in the whole region.

Question: The civil war between Shiite Arabs and Sunni Arabs threatens the whole Iraq and the area in general. If this war is not controlled, how will it end?

Answer: The civil war between Shiite and Sunni Arabs in Iraq should not be a threat to the Kurds, who after all are not Arabs.

Question: Iran and Syria are both neighbors of Iraq, and they have negative effects on Iraq’s situation, particularly through the Iranian government’s hostility to the United States. How do you see Iran’s conflict with the United States?

Answer: The only way that there will be no conflict between the United States and Iran is if the U.S. promotes a theocratic Shiite state in Iraq. Clearly this will not happen, so conflict between the U.S. and Iran is a fact of life. If Syria supports secular-minded groups in Iraq, then this is not negative. However, that support is outweighed by tactical and strategic Syrian support for Iranian training and equipment of Hamas and Hezbollah. Iranian and Syrian support for these groups only inflames the region in general, making life for Kurds in Iraq, and not only in Iraq, more difficult.

Question: Turkey is also a neighbor of Iraq and at the same time an American ally. Still, Turkey sometimes issues threats against the Iraqi Kurdistan region, which is the only safe part in Iraq. If Turkey considers itself an American ally, why doesn’t it try to support U.S. policy in Iraq?

Answer: Turkey’s hesitations about U.S. policy in come from the fact that if Kurds in Iraq become too autonomous and influential, then this could lead to demands for autonomy by Kurds in Turkey. A secular and socially progressive Iraqi state with support from Iraqi Kurds is therefore also in the interest of Kurds in Turkey.

Question: The Bush Administration is now under pressure from public opinion and also the Democratic-party majority in the U.S. Congress. At the same time, it is difficult to defend the position that the president Bush’s policy in Iraq is a big success. This being so, how long can Bush stand up against the challenge of public opinion and congressional Democrats against his Iraq policy?

Answer: Due to the way that the U.S. Constitution defines the powers of the branches of government, the policy of the Bush Administration has no need to change its stated intention to remain in Iraq, despite any pressures from Congress or U.S. public opinion.

Question: The Bush Administration was relying on Maliki’s government in Baghdad, but this government couldn’t help the United States as much as seemed necessary. Within Iraq there is now a movement towards a new political alliance headed by Dr. Ayad Alawi. Do you think that the United States will cease supporting Maliki’s government and support Dr. Ayad Alawi instead?

Answer: The United States will seek to work with whatever government the Iraqi parties form and look for all the help it can get from any Iraqi political formations, with the exception that it will hesitate to take steps that would increase Iranian influence in the region.

Question: The fragmentation of some parts of Shiite majority, such as the departure of the Fazilla party and Mr. Dawd Qasm, has led to an even balance between the Shiites on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the Ayad Alawi formation including the whole Sunni party. So far, while the Kurds are now as a result called “kingmakers”, they have not decided anything in this regard. What is your perspective on the Kurds’ situation in the future of Iraq? Would you advise the Kurds to remain with the Shiite majority coalition or to build a new alliance with Ayad Alawi?

Answer: The Kurds' main interest is in a secular and modern Iraqi state with Kurdish autonomy. This is not only to their benefit but also to the benefit of Kurds outside Iraq. Therefore the most important priority for Kurdish policy in Iraq today is to oppose the dominance any theocratic or centralizing political tendencies.

Question: If you were an advisor to the president of the Kurdistan region, what recommendations would you make to him?

Answer: If I had the honor to advise the president of the Kurdish region, I would recommend taking a broad perspective, looking beyond the immediate political situation created by the United States. If Turkey becomes a member of the European Union, as it still wishes to do, then under the rules the European Union, it becomes possible that Kurdish is an official language of Europe. Furthermore, the Kurdish region in Iraq could possibly find itself in a relation with the EU like East Germany. During the Cold War, East Germany was a de facto member of the European Union through West German proxy. Like the border between the two Germanys, it is hard to imagine the Turkish-Iraqi border (which would be the external border of the EU, like the West German border during the Cold War) cutting off the Kurdish population in Turkey from the Kurdish population in Iraq.

Copyright © Robert M. Cutler unless otherwise noted.
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URL:  http://www.robertcutler.org/blog/2007/04/interview_on_iraqi_kurdistan_a.html
English original of the Kurdish translation published in Gulan (Irbil), no. 629 (9 April 2007).

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 8, 2007 7:19 PM.

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