It is worth noting the article by Mr. Michael Gunter of the Jamestown Foundation entitled "Intra-Kurdish Disputes in Northern Iraq". If we want to start off with problems with Mr. Gunter's thesis in the article we might begin with the title as a start. The Kurdish Auonomous Region is indeed made up of northern Iraq. It is indeed currently represented in the currently constituted government of Iraq. However, the disputes that Mr. Gunter is referring to appear to be singularly those impacting on the Kurdish nation and people. The use of "intra-Kurdish" in the title is hardly necessary unless there is some underlying denial of the national identity of Kurds. It would seem a headline could more appropriately been "Kurdish Disagreements within the Autonomous Region". It certainly would have been a more simple way of acknowledging that there are political differences that exist, as they do in any government. It would have also had the advantage of starting from the same premise as the Kurdish people in addressing them. One worries when one sees political forces in the US move so far away from the Kurdish people and begin to act like strangers. There is certainly no shortage of experiences in the past where this has happened. This in itself establishes a certain skepticism in regards to the article's thesis and the policy proposals that would flow from it. The maintenance of a strong centralized Baghdad government appears to be the underlying motivation of Baker, and Gunter. Continuing to bank on this proposition is a no-gainer and is a policy that is fraught with its own consequences in the region.
Mr. Gunter proposes a one minister cabinet for each post as a definition for a "unified government". It is apparent that Mr. Gunter doth presume a bit too much, as he works to define what Kurdish self-government needs to be. There are many complexities in the existing political reality that the KRG has worked to address in its structure and its external relations with nations in the region. This particular issue appears on the surface to be simply an implementation of proportional representation internally that enable input by various Kurdish parties. This is by no means something that is easy to extract the significance to at this time. Neither is it a particularly pertinent point, unless one wishes to create discord between Kurdish parties where there is currently an agreed-upon working relation. I don't think I need to tell PUK or KDP how they can best facilitate the common effort towards national recognition. I am sure there are many divisions and differences that arise in the course of governing. But, it is worth disregarding Mr. Gunter's objections to a lack of a unified government at this point if there is some demonstrated effectiveness to the governing of the Kurdish people as a result. Even Mr. Gunter concludes this by saying in concluding the paragraph:" Given the divisions between the KDP and PUK, the quasi-federal arrangements institutionalized by having two separate KRGs in the past and remnants of this situation in the new unified KRG may serve the Iraqi Kurds better than a forced unified government." In that context there remains more questions that arise in regards to the intent of the objection in the first place.
The recent dispute between Pres. Barzani and the Turkish military was raised in this article to try and demonstrate a certain conflict between Presidents Barzani and Talibani.
One thing that can be said is threat the positions inherently raise this conflict and by itself it is no profound demonstration of fratricide within the Kurdish nation. Both Presidents exercised their powers granted to them in a responsible manner and neither violated any international laws, treaties or undermined Kurdish sovereignty as a result of their actions and words. Missing in Mr. Gunter's article is the fact that Turkish forces on the border have been increased in addition to the rhetoric of the Turkish generals. This does not lend itself to the belief that the issue is one created by Pres. Barzani for his own purposes. Turkey's lack of recognition of the Kurdish Regional Government, or President Barzani, will have nothing to do with the matter of Kurdish independence in the long run. As it stands now, it is merely a continuation of a Turkish national policy of denying any national, political or cultural rights of the Kurdish peoples in the region. On the other hand, the violation of the territory by Turkish troops needs to be clearly presented as an action with consequences of its own.
Mr. Gunter takes his next step by describing demonstrations in Halabja, Sulamaniyah and Irbil in 2006. The significance of the characterization of the involvement of youth would appear to raise questions in regards to a certain alienation of youth from the building of a Kurdish nation. By themselves they certainly do not project a convincing case for abandoning it. One is not surprised at actions directed in regards to the supply of fuel and electricity, but the burning of the Halabja museum does raise questions concerning the leadership or involvement of other forces not committed to the Kurdish peoples struggle. Unless there is something about the Halabja museum that I am not privy to the action appears to demonstrate an aggressively anti-Kurd position as might come from Baathists rather then other Kurdish forces.
Next, Mr. Gunter presents a brief regarding human rights violations within the Kurdish Autonomous Region that are certainly put in the context of the current conflicts and activities south of them. By no means should these matters not be addressed, but looking at this in the context of how the writer has unfolded a clear thesis that opposes Kurdish autonomy or independence, these become self-serving attempts to rally the public in opposition to this cause.
The effort to demonstrate that the KRG is not a representative government because it has not declared independence jumps to the other side of the argument in making its case. Mr. Gunter appears bewildered that the KRG has not declared independence in the face of two unofficial referendums demonstrating overwhelming support for independence by the Kurdish people. The KRG has functioned as it can function to date. It has moved forward as it can move forward to date. This neither negates the referenda nor promotes the centralization of the Baghdad government at the expense of the Kurdish Autonomous Region and its people. It merely is what it is: a recognition of the legitimacy of the popular will of the Kurdish people. The votes of the Kurdish people have been cast and their unity and direction has been put on the record for all to see.
In regards to Kirkuk, Mr. Gunter appears to believe that all the turmoil south of the Autonomous Region would stay there if there were no resolution of the issue of restoring Kirkuk to its legitimate political context that existed prior to Saddam's displacements. "Since the failed uprisings of 1991, the Iraqi government forcibly expelled over 120,000 Kurds, Turkomans, and Assyrians from government-controlled areas of northern Iraq, most of them from Kirkuk and the surrounding villages. Most of these expulsions took place through an escalated process of harassment by Iraqi government officials, documented in an earlier Human Rights Watch study:
Typically, families targeted for expulsion would receive several threatening visits from security personnel or Ba'th Party officials. During those visits, the families are pressured to take one or more of the following steps: officially alter their ethnic identity by registering as Arabs instead of Kurds, Turkoman, or Assyrian, a process known as “nationality correction;” [sic] become members of the ruling Ba'th Party; and/or join one of the various militias formed by Saddam Hussein, including the so-called Army of Jerusalem (Jaysh al-Quds). Families with young men are particularly harassed." http://www.kerkuk-kurdistan.com/kerkukek.asp?ser=4&cep=9&nnimre=4154 It is indeed the height of hypocrisy to propose that Kurds are responsible for creating a problem when the Baathists were the ones to take such draconian measures. The historical record demonstrates the validity of a corrective measure in regards to Kirkuk and this corrective measure fits the definition of the Kirkuk Referendum.
Finally, Mr. Gunter completes his article. And proceeds to leave it hanging, with no policy proposals, no recommendation for US action and no evaluation of the national project underway in southern Kurdistan. Instead, it attempts to minimize the significance of the current state of relations between the PUK and the KDP as a power conflict, nothing more, nothing less. It would indeed be a tragedy if that proves to be the case. But, there is leadership that can make it otherwise. And, there is a national will to see it turn out otherwise. And there are centuries of history that have manifested into a new realization for the future. Of that, there can be no question.