As candidates prepare for the primaries and caucuses for the Presidential election in 2008, there has been a lot of talk regarding the war in Iraq. There has become a focus on opposition to the war within both parties. There has also been some distinct positions developed by particular candidates and parties. What has been missing is a separate conversation regarding future American policy vis-a-vis the emerging Kurdish nation. At some point, this will move from the position of candidates to the position of the elected President of the United States, so there is a need for the public to review the candidates' position before the election and not just accept it afterwards without any say in its formulation.
In the Democratic Party, there has been very little interchange publicly by the candidates that would demonstrate a policy proposal that would be implemented upon election. It seems as though all the Democratic candidates have been given one script and while reciting from this script a new sequence of events has arisen. But, instead of realizing the script does not address the change in circumstances, they continue to read from it in utter disregard of what is taking place in the real world. There have been no recent conversations on the Turkish provocations in the Kurdish Autonomous Region and the accusations that it has level against KRG President Barzani. There have been no proposals regarding the transformation of the peshmerga into a national defense force by the KRG. There has been no discussion of the Kirkuk Referendum as an instrument in expressing the will of the Kurdish people and nation.
The two leading contenders for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama have very distinct positions but it has been a rare occasion when the word Kurd has ever been spoken by them. In a newspaper interview published in the New York Times on March 14, 2007, Senator Hillary Clinton was quoted as saying: "I think we have a vital national security interest and obligation to try to help the Kurds manage their various problems in the north so that one of our allies, Turkey, is not inflamed, and they are able to continue with their autonomy. I think we have a vital national security interest- if the Iraqis ever get their act together- to continue to provide logistical support, air support, training support. I don't know that that is going to be feasible, but I would certainly entertain it. And I think we have a vital national security interest in trying to prevent Iran from crossing the border and having too much influence inside of Iraq." In this statement, Senator Clinton seems to give equal weight to placating the Turkish government as she does to supporting the Kurdish Regional Government. It is not at all clear how she would respond to a Turkish military incursion. Neither does she, at any point, specifically affirm the rights of the Kurdish people, in light of the years of mass murders, to independence.
In that interview, Senator Clinton did respond to the issue of Kurdish autonomy in a negative manner by presenting it as an Iraqi matter, rather than as a Kurdish matter. She stated in the article: "Even the partition idea that Les Gelb and Joe Biden and others floated, well that's not for us to do anymore. They're a sovereign government- we can't walk in and say, O.K. divide it up, we're going to move the Shiites here and the Sunnis there."
She did not address the possibility of a post-occupation Iraqi government that forcibly attempts to require Kurdish integration into a strong centralized government in Baghdad and how the U.S. might work to anticipate this possibility ahead of time by positively promoting Kurdish autonomy. Nor did she speak to the issue of the Kirkuk Referendum scheduled for November. One writer in reviewing the positions of the Islamic sects and their political leadership indicated: "The Shia religious parties may be allied to the Kurds in order to form a government but they fear the political damage among their own followers if they are seen to be handing over Kirkuk to the Kurds." There has been opposition among many of the Shi'a leaders, including Moqtada al-Sadr to the intended annexation of the Kurdish Autonomous Region by Shi'a leaders. But, one fails to hear any mention of this in Senator Clinton's current script.
One hears no mention of the potential strategic significance of an independent Kurdistan in the region, at least not from the Democratic candidates. The general public does seem to grasp this. "Ironically, the creation of the first internationally recognized Kurdish state in Southern Kurdistan is the best outcome for Turkey!" It does seem as though non-candidate and former President Bill Clinton does appreciate its regional role. Former President Clinton stated: "... the US administration must protect Kurds from any external attacks. He added that a possible Turkish military operation into Southern Kurdistan would bring 'a disaster' to the region... America should deploy its troops in Iraq in Kurdistan and regions neighboring Kurdistan. The troops to be deployed would prevent Turkey from entering the region, thus helping to protect Iraqi Kurds from external forces."
One sees the contradictions in these statements and they clearly require clarification by Senator Clinton. The issue at hand is not simply Senator Clinton's peace plan for the region of South West Asia, but it is also how openly the candidates have presented their positions as something that the American people can rally behind and support. Clearly, the American people have expressed their opposition to engaging in high-casualty scenarios in the heart of Baghdad. Just as clearly have the American people become more aware of the nation-building project of the Kurdish people through stories in the mainstream media. It is needed for candidates, like Senator Clinton, to address the substantive political issues of the future.
We should not presume a positive Turkish role in the region and everyone needs to be wary about their deliberate hostile actions that could have profound repercussions for the future. Likewise, in developing a policy toward Iran there needs to be some linkage with the Islamic Republic of Iran accepting non-interference in the affairs of other nations and respect for the national rights of the Kurdish population currently under their jurisdiction. It is a regional re-configuration that is taking place and the policies that will have the greatest positive impact will be based on a recognition of the people and nations that have demonstrated a national will of their own for independence and freedom.
Martin Zehr is an American political writer whose article on the Kirkuk Referendum has been printed by the Kurdish Regional Government, click here article was reprnted in its entirety by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) http://www.puk.org/web/htm/news/nws/news070514.html His articles are posted on Kurdish media sites such as Kurdish Aspect http://www.kurdishaspect.com/doc041007MZ.html , http://www.kurdishaspect.com/doc041107MZ.html , and http://www.kurdishaspect.com/doc051307MZ.html Replies to other ezines are at: http://www.alternet.org/audits/50215/ and Op-EdNews Posts can be found at: http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_martin_z_070607_are_the_turkish_mili.htm http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_martin_z_070614_the_news_of_wars_and.htm http://gregg-jocoy.blogspot.com/2007/04/mato-ska-builds-libraries-at.html The article on "Kurdistan:Under Construction" is also found on The Conservative Voice http://www.theconservativevoice.com/article/24814.html and Kurdish Disagreements or Disputes? http://www.theconservativevoice.com/article/25047.html