Kurds in Iraq…
a state with a bloody history
The Kurds will not give up the gains they have made in the Iraqi Kurdistan. The challenge for the U.S. policy is difficult and complex towards Iraq and the Kurds. The war has cost Iraqi a lot in lives and materials. It is believed that millions of Iraqi soldiers with an equivalent number of civilians to have died, with many more injured. The wars brought neither restorations nor changes in the borders.
The U.S. policy and the interest of the Kurds in a future Iraq must converge. The Kurds want freedom, basic human rights, and social equality. The Kurds are willing to live in a federal Iraq. The conflicts have been compared to wars in the history in terms of the tactics used, including large scale trench warfare with barbed wire stretched across trenches, manned machine-gun posts, bayonet charges, human wave attacks across a no-man>s land, and extensive use of chemical weapons such as mustard gas by the Iraqi government against the civilians Kurds.
At the time of the conflicts, the chemical weapons had been used in the Iraqi wars. And the international community remained silent as Iraq used weapons of mass destruction against the Iraqi Kurds. The U.S. policy should stay the course toward federalist governance for Iraq, but the U.S. policy must be consistent with actual events on the ground too.
Given politicians such authoritarian reputations for serving others within the political elite, voters in the newly gained democracy would expect that the winner of the first election for control of the national government will use power only for personal benefit and to benefit the inner circle of the active supporters.
This policy needs to adhere to Iraqi self determination and rely more on countries in the region, like the Arab League or Turkey to present solutions for Iraq. Policymakers need to push for a compromise on the status of Kirkuk. A special regime to govern Kirkuk is one solution that may be acceptable to all concerned. Kirkuk could become the decisive point for the future of a unified Iraq or a breakup into three separate entities. U.S. policy must plan for the possibility that a federalist form of government may fail and that the Kurds may separate from Iraq.
The key to success for the U.S. will be its ability to maintain stability in the region and not abandon the Kurds again. The U.S. should provide incentives for the Kurds to remain as part of Iraq. If a unified Iraq becomes unattainable the U.S. must assist the Iraqis to manage such a transition peacefully.
The U.S. policy needs to stay on course to ensure successful decentralized governance in Iraq, while planning for the possible consequences if the Kurds or Shiites declare independence in the future. Voters are unlikely to support democratic challengers to the ruling party, and they might see enough reason to protest if the government suppressed its political opposition.
The recently released National Strategy for Victory in Iraq states as one of the core assumptions that federalism is not a precursor to the breakup of Iraq but that it allows a strong central government to exercise the powers of a sovereign state, while enabling regional bodies to make decisions that protect the interests of local the populations. The challenge lies in the division of powers given to the central government and the regional governments as well.