Experts Warn US Is Turning Its Back On Kurds

By HAWAR ABDULRAZAQ
27/09/2010

ERBIL, Iraqi Kurdistan: Iraqi Kurds say they unreservedly backed the Americans to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003. Their peshmerga forces fought alongside the Americans against the former Iraqi army. But now many warn that there is a widening gap between the two.

Since the US administration was taken over by Barack Obama, a democrat, some political experts say the US has been turning its back on the Kurds, pressuring them to fulfill their interests in a country mired with a sectarian strife.

This is not apparently what Kurds expect from the Americans. They have already proposed a set of 19 demands to the winning Arab coalitions. Any Arab party that fulfils the more of these demands, the more it will be likely to win the Kurdish support to form a coalition government.

No Arab party has yet shown full support for the demands. In his latest visit paid to Baghdad, US-Vice President, Joe Biden, was said to have personally pressured Kurds to give up presidency, a post now occupied by Jalal Talabani.

American’s alleged request for a compromise from Talabani was part of a larger set of proposals Biden handed in to Iraqi politicians. Biden is said to have proposed the Kurds to get the post of head of the National Security instead.

Many say that the US prefers to grant presidency to one of the two winning coalitions, Iyad Allawi’s Iraqiya and Nuri Maliki’s State of Law, two rival coalitions that have struggled against each other fore more than six months to dominate Iraqi politics.

Kurds seem to have backed down for the Americans. In an interview with Arab-speaking television al-Arabia, Talabani said that the post of the presidency was a “negotiable” demand.

“It indicates that the Kurds are seen more as part of the problem than the solution right now and that pressure on them will increase to accept what is on offer in the US proposal,” said Stefan Wolff Professor of International Security at University of Birmingham in the UK. “Kurdish interests have not been a priority for the US. The US wants stability in Iraq and wants to get out as quickly as possible without the country blowing up into violent civil war immediately after.”

An American political scientist believes that Washington’s main concern is to see Iraqis form a new government as soon as possible helping the American troops to withdraw completely by the end of next year. “The primary concern of the United States is that a stable Iraqi government gets formed soon, since further delay risks increased instability,” said Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics & International Studies at University of San Francisco. “What happens to the Kurds is secondary in the minds of U.S. officials, as it has always been,” added Zunes. He also believes the reason behind proposing National security’s leading post by Americans to a Kurd is to make sure a non-Arab gets the sensitive post in a country with a relatively high level of sectarian hostility between Sunni Arabs, backed by Sunni Arab states, and Shiite Arabs, backed by Iran. “Desiring to give the Kurds the principal national security post probably comes from a desire to have someone neutral in the ongoing division between Arab Sunnis and Arab Shias and someone who would be less likely to be unduly influenced by either Iran or various Arab states” stated Zunes.

However, another political expert believes that there are other good posts for Kurds to take. “The speaker’s position in the Parliament seems to me the stronger role” states Daniel P. Serwer, vice president of United States Institute of Peace. “I advise all friends of the U.S., a category in which the Kurds certainly fall, to pursue their own interests vigorously and to depend on U.S. support as little as possible” says Serwer.

A key question remains to be posed: Will the Biden’s proposals make Iraqi political process go forward? Robert Olson, Professor of Middle East Politics in University of Kentucky, is not certain about that. “I am unsure that this new proposal would make Iraqi political processes go forward, but it seems to me that it would not benefit the Kurds or the power of the KRG” predicted Olson. “President of Iraq being a Kurd is of great importance for the Kurds. The Head of National Security is of course of vital importance,” said Olson. “But the power of that position can also be diminished and then Kurds would not even have strong base in Baghdad.” Olson added that “it seems that the US is willing for its own domestic politics to diminish the power and significance that Kurds have in Baghdad.”