Kurd Sellout Watch, Day 449

Have we sold the Kurds out on autonomy?

Iraqi Kurdistan’s right to substantial autonomy within the Iraqi state is guaranteed under Articles 53 and 54 of the Transitional Administrative Law, a sort of temporary constitution drawn up in early March. Here is the key language:

The Kurdistan Regional Government is recognized as the official government of the territories that were administered by that government on 19 March 2003 in the governorates of Dohuk, Arbil, Sulaimaniya, Kirkuk, Diyala and Neneveh. […]The Kurdistan Regional Government shall continue to perform its current functions throughout the transitional period. … The Kurdistan Regional Government shall retain regional control over police forces and internal security, and it will have the right to impose taxes and fees within the Kurdistan region.[…]With regard to the application of federal laws in the Kurdistan region, the Kurdistan National Assembly shall be permitted to amend the application of any such law within the Kurdistan region, but only to the extent that this relates to matters that are not within the provisions of Articles 25 and 43(D) of this Law and that fall within the exclusive competence of the federal government. [Note: Article 25 concerns foreign policy; defense of Iraq’s borders; currency; weights and measures; telecommunications; immigration; and, most crucially, natural resources, which is to say, oil. Article 43, Section D, establishes and guarantees the independence of an Iraqi judiciary.]

The free rein thus far given the Kurds is easily justified by the fact that they’re the only group in Iraq right now that has established a civil society. (They got a head start during the 1990s, when the United States and Britain created a no-fly zone to protect them.) But when Iraq gains its sovereignty on June 30, the TAL will expire.

On May 24, the United States and the United Kingdom submitted to the United Nations some proposed language for a U.N. resolution to replace the TAL once Iraq becomes self-governing. The Kurds had hoped that this resolution—this new constitution for Iraq—would include the TAL language, or something like it, defining the extent of Kurdish autonomy. It did not. Bowing to Shiite leader Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s objections to Kurdish self-rule, the Americans and the British bypassed the issue altogether. The Security Council is due to begin negotiations over the wording on May 26.

The liberation of Iraq, which is already hard to justify from the perspective of American interests, at least had the virtue of freeing Iraqis from a brutal dictator. Despite all the anarchy and violence, life has gotten better for most Iraqis. (If it hadn’t, there would be more refugees.) But there remains a serious danger that the thriving secular democracy that already exists inside Iraqi Kurdistan will be extinguished by a dysfunctional and possibly theocratic central government. If the United States and the United Nations allow that to happen, it will be an unforgivable betrayal of the Kurds.

Kurd Sellout Watch Archive:
May 19, 2004: Day 443
April 27, 2004: Day 421
Feb. 20, 2004: Day 355
Jan. 6, 2004: Day 310
Nov. 8, 2003: Day 251
Oct. 24, 2003: Day 236
Oct. 20, 2003: Day 232
Oct. 7, 2003: Day 219
July 27, 2003: Day 147
July 23, 2003: Day 143
May 16, 2003: Day 75
May 1, 2003: Day 60
April 25, 2003: Day 54
April 23, 2003: Day 52
April 18, 2003: Day 47
April 10, 2003: Day 39
April 3, 2003: Day 32
March 26, 2003: Day 24
March 25, 2003: Day 23
March 23, 2003: Day 21
March 21, 2003: Day 19
March 20, 2003: Day 18
March 17, 2003: Day 15
March 14, 2003: Day 12
March 11, 2003: Day 9
March 6, 2003: Day 4
March 4, 2003: Day 2
March 3, 2003: “How Screwed Are the Kurds?”