December 22, 2011

American Troop Withdrawal from Iraq - Dark and Tragic Days Awaiting the Kurds – Part 3 - By Rauf Naqishbendi

The American invasion of Iraq renewed the Kurds’ centuries-long-awaited inspiration for an independent Kurdistan .  Their dreams would have been reality if the Kurdish leaders would have acted responsibly in echoing the aspiration of their constituents.  This would have been a golden opportunity if Kurdish leaders would have maneuvered ambitiously with their eyes on the prize. Sadly, however, the righteous endeavor for an independent Kurdistan was deadened by the selfishness of the two Kurdish leaders, Barzani and Talabani.  Now, another tragic chapter of Kurdish history will unfold with American troop withdrawal from Iraq .

Soon after ousting Saddam, the Kurds gained prominence in Iraq , with their power advancing beyond the Kurdistan region.  The known powers surrounding Iraq -- Syria , Iran , and Turkey , who have been a reviling obstacle toward Kurdish independence--were trivial as their vices toward the Kurds were overridden by American firepower.   That left the Kurds free from fear of their historic enemies and free to pursue their national ambition.

The American invasion of Iraq offered the best circumstances to make the Kurdish dream for an independent Kurdistan a reality, but the Kurdish leaders engaged in personal ambition, undermining the emphasis on a national agenda.  Would they have echoed the aspiration of their constituents, they would have lost no time in declaring an independent Kurdistan .  The first step in this process would have been restoring to the Kurds, the lawful owners, the lands that they were coerced to give up during the former regime.  A great majority of the Kurdish population in two major states, Kirkuk and Mosel , were dislodged from their birthplaces to be replaced by Arab settlers from the south and multitudes of imported Palestinians.  The Kurds who were dispelled were transported to the south, and many died from diseases, malnutrition, and harsh weather.  In addition, many from among the masses were slaughtered, their mass graveyards discovered after Iraq War.

Once Saddam was ousted, the dislocated Kurds from these two cities and their provinces rushed back to their homelands, believing that the remedy of their suffering would be rendered.  To their consternation, they found themselves to be refugees in their own birth cities.  They were housed in open fields without proper sanitation or protection as they were targeted by the remnant of Saddam’s thugs.  These people had been victims of Saddam’s genocide, yet their own shameless leaders remained aloof and purposely ignored their demand for equitable justice.

At the outset of the American invasion, Kurdish forces entered Kirkuk and Mosel .  Arab settlers feared for their lives and were ready to leave on their own peacefully, should there be a call or hint for their repatriation by the Kurdish leaders.  Ironically, the Kurdish forces left these people alone, because the leaders acted buccaneers like robbing government properties from banks to tracks.  When all that had passed, for a period of two years when Kurdish forces were dominant, they could have easily purchased these properties from the Arab settlers and restored the lands to their lawful owners.  But the Kurdish leaders did not, proving that justice is not one of their faculties.

Mosel and Kirkuk have been a point of contention between Arabs and Kurds for decades.  The former Ba’ath regime has changed the demography of these two states, and now they claim it to be Arabia .  Recently, as the Iraqi government has gotten stronger, some Kurds who returned home have been subjected to violence by the Arab population. 

Fearing for their lives, some left their homes and relocated elsewhere.  Now, as the Iraqi government has gotten stronger, and as the American troops depart Iraq , the possibility of having these two states be part of the Kurdistan region is nil.  Should the Kurds try to pursue these disputed territories, an all-out civil war will flare up with cataclysmic consequences.  Should that happen, there will be a Kurdish slaughterhouse, and the Kurds must not castigate anyone but their own leaders, Talabani and Barzani, who had every chance to rectify this dilemma peacefully but were disinclined to deal with it.

Upon ousting Saddam’s regime, the situation was perfectly mature for the Kurds to declare their independence, would they Kurds have had competent leaders to manage the difficulties clouding this matter.  Instead, the Kurdish leaders marshaled their troops to pacify the south and the relenting violence there.  This was an utter waste of effort, for peace and calm in the south yielded no material benefit for the Kurds.  On the contrary, a peaceful south will foster a strong central Iraqi government, which contradicts every notion of freedom demanded by the Kurds.

An independent Kurdistan was in the realm of possibility, would the Kurds have vigorously pressed upon it.  Alternately, these Kurdish leaders subscribed to an autonomous Kurdistan within federated Iraq .  As such, the Kurdistan region could create its own constitution and be free to adhere to or decline whatever legislation passed by the central government.  This weird arrangement, which is unparalleled anywhere else in the world, was patched together by the American presence.  Notably, in the absence of that presence, this nonsensical government within a government will be tarnished by the strong central Iraqi government, which will not concede the power sharing to this great extent.

The Iraqi government is flexing its muscles prior to American troop withdrawal.  Recently, the Al-Maliki government commanded downing the Kurdish flag, causing mass demonstrations in several Kurdish cities.  This is just the beginning of conflict between Iraq ’s central government and Kurdistan region.  Eventually, the Iraqi central government will consolidate its power and will revoke, bit-by-bit, everything the Kurds have been granted under American occupation.

The Kurds have been dreaming of their independence for hundreds of years.  An independent Kurdistan would have been real and accomplishable; instead, the Kurdish leaders traded real independence for a fake autonomy that can be revoked as easily as it was granted, and it will be.

Rauf Naqishbendi is a contributing columnist for,, American Chronicle,,,  and has written Op/Ed pages for the Los Angeles Times. His memoirs entitled "The Garden Of The Poets ", recently published. It reads as a novel depicting his experience and the subsequent 1988 bombing of his hometown with chemical and biological weapons by Saddam Hussein.  It is the story of his people´s suffering, and a sneak preview of their culture and history.  Rauf Naqishbendi is a software engineer in the San Francisco Bay Area. ISBN: 978-1-4626-0187-5 ( get The (Zoftcover) ($7.95)

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