Hoo boy. The Kurds in Kirkuk, a flash-point for Turks, Turkoman, Arabs and Kurds alike, have received permission from the CPA to fly the Kurdish flag in the city.
The coalition forces announced that Kurds are free to fly the Kurdistan flag in Kirkuk, wherever they want and no one has the right to remove the Kurdistan flag or object this Kurdish right.
The Kurds have told the coalition forces that the Iraqi flag does not represent Kurds and Kurdistan and it has caused many atrocities to Kurds.
Is the CPA nuts? When the Kurds liberated Kirkuk, the Kurdish police who immediately set up shop in the city wore the old Iraqi police uniforms so they wouldn’t give Turkey the wrong idea that the Kurds were about to bolt from Iraq and form an independent country. This was a wise move.
But this flag flying could be trouble. It’s an expression of Kurdish nationalism and seems to indicate a frustration with the slow pace of the federalization plan the Kurds came up with last year.
A friend of mine thinks the Kurds should have their own country, the Arabs should get the rest of Iraq and, for good measure, Turkey should be dismantled (!) and the southeast ceded to the newly independent Kurdistan. While I think the Kurds certainly _deserve_ their own state — God knows they’ve suffered through the decades — it’s unclear whether they can they have it? I’d guess probably not. A Kurdish state would be too destabilizing to the region. Turkey is absolutely opposed to an independent Kurdistan, and worries that if Kurds controlled the oil revenue of the Kirkuk fields, they would have the means to make an independent state viable. Thus, a declaration of independence — possibly brought on by nationalism stoked by such symbolism as the flying the Kurdish flag over Kirkuk — could result in a massive and immediate invasion from both Turkey and Iran in order to keep order, and to secure the Kirkuk and Mosul oil fields.
How many Kurds would die for such a future? How many Turks? No doubt, many on both sides are willing to die for either Kurdistan or Turkey, but the Kurds should ask themselves whether an independent state would be worth death and destruction.
THe flag over Kirkuk could enrage the Turkoman, who claim Kirkuk as their city in the same way that Kurds say it is theirs. The will likely say they need protection, prompting Turkey to growl about the need for intervention. (The Turks are using the presence of the Turkoman in Kirkuk as an excuse to maintain their leverage with the Americans on the Kurdish issue.) Support the Kurds too much in their independence dream, the Turks are saying, and we’ll use the plight of the Turkoman as a pretext to invade. Does the United States want to be caught in between the Turks and the Kurds? A NATO ally and a coalition member? When America is trying to convince Turkey to supply up to 10,000 troops to help pacify Baghdad? Is this some kind of brinkmanship the U.S. is playing with Turkey? Could the U.S. be using the Kurds to provoke the Turks, only to promise to reign them in if the Turks finally offer troops, betting Ankara won’t _really_ invade? If so, it’s a dangerous bluff.
The status of Kirkuk is, to put it mildly, delicate. Letting the Kurds fly their flag, while seemingly a small gesture, could have large consequences.