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March 23, 2004
How We Will Win in the Middle East

Tomorrow's New York Times analyzes the Kurdish uprising in Syria that has spread over the past few weeks, and determines that the cause of the unrest originates with the Iraqi Kurds -- and their newfound freedoms in a liberated Iraq:

Kurdish Syrians, 2 million of Syria's 17 million people, say that watching rights for Kurds being enshrined in a new if temporary constitution next door in Iraq finally pushed them to take to the streets to demand greater recognition. In their wake is a toll of blackened government buildings, schools, grain silos and vehicles across a remote swath of the north.

"What happened did not come out of a void," says Bishar Ahmed, a 30-year-old Kurd whose cramped stationery shop sits right next to a cluster of blackened buildings in Malikiya. "The pressure has been building for nearly 50 years. They consider us foreigners; we have no rights as citizens."

Clashes on March 11 between fans from rival soccer teams set off the sudden squall, which officially left 25 people dead and dozens wounded. But the raw emotions shocked Syrians and left officials painting a sinister picture of foreign plots to partition the country.

I don't know why the Syrian officials would be shocked; like elsewhere in the Arab-dominated Middle East, the Kurds have long been an oppressed minority, and oppression breeds deadly resentments. It is a microcosm of a main principle at the center of the strategy of the Bush administration's war on terror -- to introduce democracy as a way to destabilize those governments that provide shelter and succor to terrorists.

The Iraqi Kurds have their best opportunity in centuries to achieve some sort of self-determination, and Kurds elsewhere have begun to notice. Soon, it won't just be the Kurds who want the ability to control their own destiny, and as that momentum builds, the petty kleptocracies of sawdust Caesars like Bashir Assad won't be able to keep a lid on the pressure. As the Times notes, the ruling class in Syria belongs to a narrow ethnic minority, the Alawites, and this sudden affinity for democracy means nothing but trouble for them.

Afghanistan was first for obvious reasons. But Iraq always provided the best opportunity to plant the seeds of democracy as well as eliminating the most dangerous dictator in the region. The Kurds had already implemented a representative local government system under the no-fly zone in the north. Now the Bush administration hopes that the "hydroponic" democracy grown undercover in Kurdish Iraq will begin to bloom across the entire region, now that Saddam's removal has allowed the sun to shine on them at least.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 23, 2004 10:53 PM

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