Last week I sent an email to Karzan Taher Aziz, a young Kurd I met in Arbil last summer. He and I became friends, and he helped me with translation when I didn’t want to deal with the KDP’s official minder and translator. I asked him about the mood in Iraqi Kurdistan toward the Turks and the Americans, considering the alleged plans to have Turkey invade when war comes. Today he replied. The only changes I’ve made to this email were to remove his email address (for his protection) and cleaned up some punctuation and a touch of grammar here and there.
From: Karzan Aziz
To: Christopher Allbritton
Date: Mon Mar 10, 2003 01:23:24 PM EST
Subject: Greetings from Kurdistan
How are you dear friend? How are doing? I was thinking about you. I hope this e-mail finds you in a good health. thank you very much for your e-mail. How things are going in NY? I hope your country all the best.
I’m so sorry that I could not reply [to] you soon, but I’m v. busy these days, but any way i tried to reply you the internet line was not working properly.
dear friend, concerning your questions… regarding Turkey, we feel that we’re betrayed by them. i think you know about the demonstration against the Turks, people have got very worried here because of Turkey. As far as i’m concerned i do believe that turkey will face problems if invaded Kurdistan, as i have met so many people they all repeat the same thing “as we have been fighting against Saddam from many decades, we are ready to fight Turkey some more other decades.” i don’t feel betrayed by America because you know the coming stage will decide whether we will be betrayed or not. though we, unfortunately, as kurds are used [to] wars but this time is entirely different from ever since — people are scared here and they are afraid of chemical or biological war.
if you are asking about me i’m just fine, thank you very much, and you asked me whether i have met any journalists or not!!!!! yes i have and i’m working as a translator with some scandinavian journalists and i’m going to be getting a translation-job with a German TV. And if you wanted to ask me any thing, any information, please just feel free to e-mail me. O.K.??
With The Best Of Wishes
YOURS MOST FAITHFULLY
Karzan’s a smart guy and he has a lot of connections, and I believe him when he says the Kurds are willing to fight the Turks should they invade. Whether they win or not is a completely different question, but Karzan’s report meshes with talks I’ve had with opposition members who say they will fight to protect what they’ve built in the north.
An interesting note, however. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, based in Suleimaniya in the south near the Iranian border, has agreed in principle to a federal Iraqi government with the regions based on geography instead of ethnicity. The Kurdistan Democratic Party, however, continues to hold out for federally protected ethnic divisions. (You can read the original proposed constitutions given to me by KDP Deputy Prime Minister Sami Abdulrahman here and here. The first is the federal constitution and the second is for the Kurdish entity within a federal Iraq.) The PUK’s support for geographic divisions is a neat diplomatic sleight-of-hand, since the northern three governances are predominantly Kurdish anyway with a population of between 4 million and 5 million. The KDP’s continued support for an ethnic-based constitution isn’t surprising. The KDP authored the constitutions, it’s older and more conservative than the Marxist-inspired PUK and has its roots in Kurdish ethnicity. The activities of its founder, Mustafa Barzani, went a long way toward changing Kurds’ loyalties from the family and clan to the idea of a Kurdish nation as a whole. To back down on ethnicity as the defining nature of the Kurdish entity in the north would be to repudiate everything Mustafa Barzani stood for. And the current president of the KDP, Masoud Barzani, Mustafa’s son, isn’t about to do that.
In other news, French President Jacques Chirac made it plain that a French veto is forthcoming at tomorrow’s (?) vote/smackdown at the Security Council. This is not a big surprise, since France has been saying it wouldn’t “allow” a new resolution authorizing war, implicitly or explicitly, for a while now, but it is an attempt to avoid being the lone veto if the United States manages to round up nine votes on the council. France’s public voicing of its intentions is to buck up Russia, which has also said it opposes any resolution that might be interpreted as authorizing war, but common wisdom is that Russia would abstain rather than veto a resolution. With France definitely in the “non” column, Russia will have more cover to say, “nyet.”
[UPDATE: Stratfor is reporting that Pakistan Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali said today that his country will abstain on the vote. “We will do what is best for our country,” Jamali said after a session of Parliament. “It is not best for my country to support war against Iraq.”]
This means, obviously, the resolution is kaput, and the United States has no reason to wait until March 17. The world could be facing war as early as this week, although it’s likely the United States will wait a few days to give inspectors and other foreign nationals time to flee Iraq and to attempt some semblance of tactical surprise. The dark nights over Baghdad grow short and the heat of April is stalking closer. The U.S. war machine won’t wait much longer, nor, from a tactical standpoint, should it. Why give the Iraqis more time to position their forces or stage a preemptive strike of their own on American troops? That’s the danger of ignoring the U.N. Not only does it free the hands of the U.S. military, but it removes any reason for the Iraqis to hold their fire, too. Saddam no doubt feels that war is coming regardless of what the Security Council decides, so it might be better to strike first and inflict as much damage as possible. Of course, he would then unite the Security Council -behind- against him, but if he plans on turning Baghdad into Stalingrad on the Tigris, what does he have left to lose?