June 02, 2002


WHY COULDN'T LITTLE MISS MUFFET CROSS THE TURKISH-IRAQI BORDER?: There were Kurds in the way! I made that joke up when I was eleven or twelve, and I'm telling it now because of this sentence in Joshua Micah Marshall's "Bomb Saddam?" piece: "But if one of the darker scenarios began to unfold--a restive civilian population, a Kurdish declaration of independence, an Iranian mobilization to the east--then we would have to choke off resistance fast." I've developed some sympathy for Kurdish nationalists, especially since reading Jeffrey Goldberg's piece on the Kurds and the Iraq-al Qaeda connection in the March 25 New Yorker, so I fired off this email to Josh Marshall:

I read with interest your piece on Iraq in the Washington Monthly. I was puzzled in one place where perhaps you could elaborate:

you list "a Kurdish declaration of independence," along with "a restive civilian population" and "an Iranian mobilization to the east"-- as "one of the darker scenarios." As I understand it, the Kurds are semi-autonomous, very anti-Saddam, and far further along at building the framework for a democratic government than most nationalist movements. Are you worried about regional instability caused by dismemberment of Iraq (hostile Arab minorities in the new Kurdistan or irredentist Kurds in Turkey or Iran, for example)? Am I missing some other way Kurdish independence might be a net negative?


Marshall replied it was the irredentism that worried him-- an independent Kurdistan would be an instant territorial threat to Iran and, more importantly, Turkey.

If you've been following my "IranWatch" items, you know that I think Iran should and will fall apart pretty soon. Kurdish irredentists might actually help the pro-democracy Persians along by further weakening the Islamic Republic.

Turkey is a different matter. The Kurds in Turkey, though terribly persecuted, have in my mind forfeited their right to independence until their terrorist attacks against Turkish civilians end permanently. (Caveat lector: the link on "persecuted" is by Kurdish nationalists and the link on "terrorist attacks" is by the Turkish government-- both seem fairly credible, though.) Perhaps a phased-in annexation of Kurdish Turkey to a free Kurdistan, predicated on an end to violence, could actually ease tensions. Turkey could be nudged along with trade incentives, perhaps. I'll admit this would be a diplomatic miracle, but we can always hope.

Posted by John Tabin at June 2, 2002 03:04 PM