Wednesday, July 22, 2009

U.N. to Kurdish leaders: Kirkuk referendum is recipe for war

It is becoming more evident that Arab-Kurdish disputes will be the greatest challenge for Iraq.
The United Nations is urging Iraqi Kurds not to push for a referendum on whether the Kirkuk oil area should be part of their northern enclave, saying such a vote would ignite conflict, a Western diplomat said on Tuesday.

"The U.N. says it will not support a hostile referendum ... (asking) do you want to join the KRG or not?" the diplomat, who is involved in the negotiation, said on condition of anonymity.

"We (all) believe that would lead to war and the U.N. has ... told the Kurds that," he said.

I agree that the referendum, in the way Kurds want it, would be a bad idea. I also agree with the assumption that Baghdad and Erbil are not going to reach compromise any time soon. However, I think the lack of compromise in the next six months will not lead to armed conflict between the central government and the Kurdish regional government.

Neither side is certain to win such a war. The central government is aware of the history of the conflict. Baghdad’s attempts to pacify the Kurdish regions for eight decades did not achieve their objective. Moreover, a renewed campaign against a particular ethnic group would undermine the legitimacy of the new political system in Iraq. If Baghdad decides to go to war against the Kurds it will have to forget about U.S. or international support. In fact it would make the system look not so much different from its predecessors.

The Kurds on the other hand, despite a belligerent tone, are not likely to pick up arms and fight the central government. In warfare the unpredictable always happens. I think the Kurdish leadership is aware of the risks war entails. It makes perfect sense for them to accept a power-sharing solution in Kirkuk without bloodshed. Particularly if the alternative involves the risk of not only losing all of Kirkuk for another generation(s), but also the risk of losing parts of their established autonomous region.

No comments: