Arguably, there isn’t an American journalist observing Iraq like Filkins. This is writing that ought to be awarded.
The Kurds are clearly our strongest allies against ISIS, and have been the best of an Iraq/Syria situation that may see a long-term redrawing of boundaries. Independent Kurdistan would threaten the interests of what’s left of the idea of unified Iraq, as well as Turkish and Iranian interests among others (Obama’s still pinning hopes on that tentative p5 + 1 deal with Rouhani).
Filkins does a deeper dive on the Kurds:
‘Obama has spoken carefully in public, but it is plain that the Administration wants the Kurds to do two potentially incompatible things. The first is to serve as a crucial ally in the campaign to destroy ISIS, with all the military funding and equipment that such a role entails. The second is to resist seceding from the Iraqi state.’
The Obama administration went so far as to block the sale of Kurdish oil against what’s left of Baghdad’s control of oil resources. Check-out this New Republic piece of a few months ago.
As to ISIS, these are clearly people with whom we can’t do business:
‘Alhashimi estimated that Baghdadi has about ten thousand fighters under his command in Iraq and twelve thousand in Syria, with tens of thousands of active supporters in both countries. In Iraq, the advance force, called the House of Islam, is dominated by foreigners, including several hundred Europeans, Australians, and Americans. Many of them are suicide bombers. Alhashimi says that the group is increasingly well funded; he estimated that it takes in ten million dollars a month from kidnapping, and more than a hundred and fifty million dollars a month from smuggling oil into Turkey and other neighboring countries, often selling it at the bargain price of about a dollar a gallon.’
Previous VICE coverage of the Islamic State, which highlights just some of what we’re dealing with:
Filkins finishes with:
‘At a lectern draped with a Kurdish flag, Barzani apologized for the heat and urged the fighters to hold on a little longer. “Be patient,” he said. “Our day is near.”
There aren’t friends, only alliances, as they say, and this alliance would be based on the past mutual interest against Saddam and his Sunni Ba’ath thuggery, and now ISIS aligning with some of those disgruntled Sunnis, and a new, broad platform for terrorism.
A few Kurdish fighting families could become oligarchic petro-leaders should they achieve independence, but nowhere in the region do we have such alignment of interests at the moment, and do we find people who might align with our longer-term interests.
Now that missile strikes and American involvement are ramping-up against ISIS, it’s worth examining. The Iraq invasion achieved certain objectives, but at great cost, and upon many failed assumptions of what could be achieved. Now we’re cleaning-up from an ineptly managed withdrawal based on failing and I believe, a deeply flawed and oft failed set of assumptions.
Islamism, and this particularly radical brand of Islam, with its patchwork of local politics and guerilla ideological warriors, united under global and universalist claims to supremacy, will be around for a while.
It’s thriving amidst such chaos and anarchy, and if you were President, you’d be dealing with it too.
See Also: Dexter Filkins ‘From Kurdistan To New York’
During Christopher Hitchens’ 2009 appearance on Australia’s Q & A, he wore a Kurdish flag pin in solidarity and fielded a question from a Kurd (starts at minute 1:30…mentioned as the rest of the debate may be worth your time):
In his book Where The West Ends, Totten describes visiting Northern Iraq briefly as a tourist with a friend, and the general feeling of pro-Americanism in Kurdish Northern Iraq that generally one can only feel in Poland, parts of the former Yugoslavia etc.
Related On This Site: Longer odds, lots of risk: Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest’s Via Media: “The Rise Of Independent Kurdistan?”…From Reuters: ‘Analysis: Syrian Kurds Sense Freedom, Power Struggle Awaits’