Kurd Sellout Watch: Day 464

The Kurd sellout lands on Page One.

It was no secret that the Kurds were threatening to secede if the United Nations passed a resolution on Iraqi governance that failed to reaffirm the protections Kurds currently enjoy under the Iraqi Governing Council’s Transitional Administrative Law. Chatterbox wrote about the ultimatum this past Friday, and the letter in which the ultimatum was issued (by Kurdish leaders Masoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani) has been online at least that long. Yet the prospect of a Kurdish secession received virtually no press coverage until after U.N. Resolution 1546 passed yesterday without the language the Kurds sought.

Now that it’s too late to do anything, it’s a huge story. The New York Times today has a Page One story, an op-ed, and a column by William Safire. This is how it used to go for the Kurds—nobody would pay attention until the time for action had passed. Chatterbox thought those days were over. Apparently they aren’t.

The Kurdistan Observer says that if the Kurds don’t make good on their threat, they will “completely lose any little credibility they have left.” Nasreen Berwari, a Kurd who is public works minister in the interim Iraqi government that will take over on June 30, said today that she would resign if asked to do so by the Kurdish leadership. But Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd who is foreign minister in the interim government, pronounced himself satisfied with language inserted at the last minute to mollify the Kurds. The language says the interim government will “work towards a federal, democratic, pluralist, and unified Iraq.” The word “federal” is meant to indicate that the Kurds will enjoy some autonomy, though whether it will be as much as they enjoy now is not specified.

What happens next? Chatterbox’s guess is that the Kurds will wait to see what how things go after June 30. Given the strong influence that the Shiite leader Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has over the American occupiers, it’s hard to imagine he will have less over a sovereign government answerable to an Iraqi public whose largest subgroup is Shiite. Does al-Sistani have any reverence for the rule of law? Doubtful. For secular government? Obviously not. For women’s rights? Not a chance. For freedom of speech? Don’t count on it. If the Kurds face losing what they’ve gained on these fronts, expect them to fight back.

[Update, June 10: Dexter Filkins reports in the June 10 New York Times that Iyad Allawi, prime minister of the incoming interim government, reaffirmed the Coalition Provisional Authority’s  earlier promise  that the new government would honor the Transitional Administrative Law until elections are held. Since the CPA’s promises won’t be worth much after June 30, Allawi’s endorsement of this one is significant. Jalal Talabani, meanwhile, has given what appears to be a highly qualified endorsement of the UN resolution.]

Kurd Sellout Watch Archive:
June 4, 2004: Day 459
May 25, 2004: Day 449
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?”