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December 20, 2006
The Kurds Respond To The ISG

The Iraq Study Group delivered its recommendations for changing strategies in Iraq at the beginning of the month, a report that has received criticism from all sides -- liberals for not demanding an immediate withdrawal, and conservatives for its recommendation to turn to the sponsors of terror to "stabilize" Iraq. Some of the strongest criticism came from Iraq itself, and today the Washington Post hosts a column from Mansour Barzani, a leading Kurd, on the lack of credibility of the ISG:

Our federal constitution, which the majority of the Iraqi people voted for, is treated flippantly, as though it were a negotiable document rather than the hard-fought result of lengthy negotiation among those willing to participate in the new Iraq. Further, the study group's approach is driven by the concerns of the countries in this region rather than by the concerns of the Iraqi people.

Many Iraqis, especially the Kurds, are justifiably concerned about this. No one from the study group visited Iraqi Kurdistan, which the group admits is safe and pro-American, and where there has not been a single U.S. casualty since the war. Kurds not only fought alongside Americans but lost some of our best men to American friendly-fire incidents. Yet we staunchly support the work of the coalition and are eternally grateful for the sacrifices the American people have made for our future. ...

The plan would reward regimes that have undermined the U.S. effort at every turn. Iraq would fall under the regional powers, and the Iraqi people would come out the losers. Any vacancy left in Iraq by the coalition forces before Iraq is ready to stand on its own would be filled by those opposed to democracy. American credibility would dissipate, and any chance for success in Iraq would evaporate. If this comes to pass, hopes for real democracy in the Middle East will be history. The regional powers that border us have an interest in keeping us weak and divided.

Once again Kurds are about to be sold out. Should the U.S. administration adopt the recommendations of Baker-Hamilton, the Kurds will be sacrificed to protect the interests of Iraq's neighbors. We were massacred in 1975 and 1991 by Saddam Hussein because we thought that our commitment to democracy and tolerance made us natural U.S. allies.

The Kurds put aside their aspirations for independence in favor of the American insistence on a united Iraq under our protection. We pressed them to back away from their historical goal of an independent Kurdistan because of the instability it would wreak throughout the region, and they agreed to do so. They have pressed for a federal solution in Iraq that would allow them significant autonomy, but they have not argued for secession, at least not yet. The Kurds have done their best to uphold the pact between themselves and the US.

Barzani is right to be suspicious of the ISG. Given how much more safe the Kurdish areas are than the Green Zone, one has to wonder why the ISG never bothered to meet with the Kurds of the region. That kind of snub, after years of alliance with the US, sends a very disturbing message about our intentions for the future of that alliance. An American failure puts the Kurds in a fatal squeeze between the Turks and the Shi'a and Sunni -- setting up yet another genocide.

We need new directions in Iraq, but reverse shouldn't be one of them. We have responsibilities to the people who believed in us and in our mission, and a second betrayal in two decades would devastate our ability to win allies anywhere in the world. It could also convince the Kurds to act pre-emptively in their own defense by declaring their independence, which could touch off a war with the Turks. An American withdrawal without establishing Iraq's sovereignty and internal security will result in death and destruction on a far greater scale than anything we have seen from Iraq to this point, on top of the exposure of American will as non-existent.

Failure cannot be an option in this war.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 20, 2006 6:19 AM

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