Empower Iraqi Kurdistan and Let it Influence the Rest of the Country: Part I

by Gedalyah Reback

Kurdistan has been a flower in junkyard when one looks at the situation in Iraq. Without any playing down of the remarkable contrast and amazing progress of Iraq’s north, Kurdistan has been a G-dsend. Kurdistan’s economy is booming, investment is coming in, its security is stable (and actually exists), plus it is not sending its militias into the sectarian free-for-all that is engulfing the Arab parts of the country. Iraq’s instability is an Arab affair, and Kurdistan is an aspect of relief for the Coalition’s efforts there.

This is a component of the new Iraq that cannot be lost on American strategists. As Iraq’s civil war worsens and Kurdish leaders will look to keep their region’s lot continally safe from that violence and chaos, it is in American and Coalition interests to allow that stability to resonate as far as the Kurdistan Regional Government can extend it.

Iraqi Kurds are enveloped in ethnic conflict with northern Iraq’s minorities, but hardly in the way the Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab sectors of Iraq are battering each other. This is a conflict of underprivileged minority in an ethnic majority’s world. It is parallel to the situation of many urban and lower class minorities around the world, a significant difference from the open civil war in the country center and its south.

This allows the US to focus on urban development and microeconomic issues, freeing it from the burden of economic reconstruction tied with security as is with the other parts of the country. Kurds’ ethnic conflicts also stem from Saddam Hussein’s Arabization efforts in the 1980s that kicked many Kurds out of major cities like Kirkuk and Mosul – both of which sit on the rough imaginary line between heavily Arab and heavily Kurdish communities. Today, Kurds do make up significant portions of those cities’ populations, and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) want to control them. They are the economic and and resourceful hubs of Iraq’s north.

In the event the Sunni-Shiite Arab civil war spirals out of any concept of control, it is in American interests to have the stable Kurdish authorities controlling these cities rather than a potentially anarchy-prone Baghdad government. It would also create a solid base for development in more of the region than the current area of control for the KRG. Additionally, with heavy American influence, the lot of Sunni Arab, Christian and Turkmen minorities in these cities can improve, provided heavy investment. This allows the United States to maintain a significant assemblance of order in Iraq if it fails to stabilize the situation in the central and southern parts of the country.

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