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A vision of post-war Iraq: peace, prosperity, and a population grateful for the freedom and opportunity given them by the United States. A prewar neocon pipedream? No - it's the reality of the country's northern provinces.
The fact that you rarely see news from northern Iraq is an indicator of the phenomenal success there - it runs counter to the carefully crafted "failure" narrative regarding the rebuilding and future of that land. But Kevin Sites is now in that Kurdish north, and provides a detailed look (with video) at the Peshmerga (translation: "those who face death." ) - the Kurdish militia. Don't miss it.
The situation there is peaceful, prosperous, and historically complex (as evidenced in our look at the events of 1991-97) and two opposing Kurdish factions (who previously fought against each other, with one side supported by Hussein's government and the other backed by Iran) are coexisting, while dealing with the daunting issues of integrating with their southern neighbors and coping with the Turks to the north and Iran to the east. (Portions of both countries are ethnically and historically Kurdish.)
But the result is a peaceful and prospering area of Iraq, as we reported here with a follow-up here. Can this work for the remainder of the country? Many of the Kurds are optimistic. Sites quotes Maj. General Sarwad Qader Barzingy, commandant of a Peshmerga military academy: "As Kurds we don't care much about the past," he says. "We are confident now and need to move forward."
His facility is one of the signs of hope for the future Iraq:
The academy, which was created in 1991, just after the withdrawal of Iraqi forces, now has been integrated into the Iraqi army. Here both Kurdish and Arab cadets are put through an abbreviated one-year program to commission them as second lieutenants in the new Iraqi army.Indeed, but as any member of the US military can tell you, integration is fundamental to success of such a diverse organization. And none will deny that success takes time and effort.
Currently the academy has 105 Arab cadets. Ironically, all were admitted to the Iraqi army's military academy in southern Baghdad during the regime of Saddam Hussein. They are sons of Baath Party members who weren't able to finish their studies because of the war. Now they are here, training in the mountains of east of Sulaymaniyah. Barzingy says things don't always go smoothly.
Perhaps more for some than others. Generale Barzingy is a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) as is Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. If Sites has captured the situation correctly, sentiment among the opposition Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) is less favorable to the Arabs:
But Pesghmerga soldiers at the KDP Brigade all openly voice their desire for separation.But that view may be a minority. Earlier this week Sites was in Irbil, a city that in 1996 was a battleground in the fighting between KDP and PUK forces. Saddam Hussein dispatched Iraqi forces to aid the KDP, and his military incursion sparked Operation Desert Strike, one of several cruise missile attacks on Iraq ordered by President Clinton.
"We prefer independence," says Hakim Kadir Tagarny. "We also know the reality, but if there is persecution again we will fight for our independence."
"We don't want the Arabs in Kurdistan," says Ramazan Muhammad Hussein Ali. The dozen or so others gathered in the hallways all nod their heads in agreement.
ERBIL, Iraq -- It's Friday at dusk. People are strolling through the gardens, lounging on the grass, reading, eating snacks and chatting near the refreshment stand.One of the greatest concerns is finding people to work in the shops:
Zirar Abdullah poses his young son and daughter on the playground spinner, then snaps their picture in the perfectly diffused golden light.
"I come here with my family every Friday," Abdullah says. "I feel very secure. I feel free to do what I like."
The growth has also created a labor shortage. Furniture store owner Zana Aziz says people used to beg him for jobs at $50 a month. Now he has to pay $200-$300 a month and he still has trouble keeping the 10 workers he needs to run his business. The problem, he says, is police recruitment.But such events are things you only hear of in the Kurdish reagions. Although Sites quotes one resident who expresses concern for the tone of the cut-and-run crowd in the States.
"I've lost so many workers to the police force," he says. "They sign up and make 400 or more dollars a month and only have to work a few days a week. I see many of them sitting in the coffee shops or the marketplace."
Many businesses have started hiring Arab workers who have traveled to the Kurdish areas from central and western Iraq, but Aziz says he's not ready to take that step.
"I'm not sure I can trust them," Aziz says. "You hear so much about suicide bombings and, also, I could be abducted. I'm afraid to do it."
"The day the Americans leave," he says, "on the next day the Arabs will attack us. When the Americans go we will go with them," he says, only half-jokingly.Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports that those interested in helping the rebuilding of Iraq should move fast towards the Kurdish region, where oil is beginning to flow:
The Kurdistan Democratic Party, which controls a portion of the semiautonomous Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq, last year quietly signed a deal with Norway's DNO to drill for oil near the border city of Zakho. [*See Update 2 below] Iraqi and company officials describe the agreement as the first involving new exploration in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.Seemingly great news - but according to the Times, the project was launched without the approval of the central government, "raising a potentially explosive issue at a time of heightened ethnic and sectarian tensions." But their story admittedly relies on second hand reports - which they apparently quickly passed on to the proper officials:
Drilling began after a ceremony Tuesday, during which Nechirvan Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdish northern region, vowed "there is no way Kurdistan would accept that the central government will control our resources," according to news agency reports.An interesting development, but not half so much as the one described in this Reuters report:
In Baghdad, political leaders on Wednesday reacted to the deal with astonishment.
"We need to figure out if this is allowed in the constitution," said Adnan Ali Kadhimi, an advisor to Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari. "Nobody has mentioned it. It has not come up among the government ministers' council. It has not been on their agenda."
JERUSALEM, (Reuters) - Private Israeli security firms have sent experts to Iraq's northern Kurdish region to give covert training to Kurdish security forces, an Israeli newspaper reported on Thursday.Such a story has elements of a disinformation campaign, designed to discredit the Kurds in the eyes of the Arabs. But in a volatile region these sparks can start large fires.
The daily Yedioth Ahronoth said that over the past year and a half the Israeli companies had set up a secret training base in northern Iraq as part of a multi-million dollar project with the Kurdish regional government.
It said dozens of Israeli specialists had been sent to teach Kurdish forces "weapons training, self-defence and counter-terror warfare".
Israel's foreign ministry voiced doubt over the report. "As far as I know there are no Israelis whatsoever in Kurdistan," ministry spokesman Mark Regev said. "As there is a formal state of war between Israel and Iraq, it is illegal for Israelis to visit Iraq."
Israel and Iraq have no diplomatic ties, and Iraq is one of a number of Arab countries with which the Jewish state is still officially in a state of war. Israel has peace treaties with only two of its Arab neighbours, Egypt and Jordan.
But the Kurds are likely quite capable of taking care of things themselves, as 90,000 Peshmerga troops tend to discourage "outside influences" from spreading violence in their provinces. As I've noted before, the Kurdish region isn't Iraq without Americans, it's Iraq without terrorists.
In recent weeks Iraq has passed three important milestones. The constitutional referendum on Oct. 15 was a powerful demonstration of Iraqis' desire to establish democracy and save a country still recovering from its disastrous history. Two days later the remains of 500 of my kinsmen were returned from a mass grave in southern Iraq for reburial in Iraqi Kurdistan. Another 7,500 of my kin are still missing after "disappearing" from a Baathist concentration camp in 1983 in the first phase of the genocidal Anfal campaign, which caused the death of 182,000 Kurdish civilians during the 1980s. Then, on Oct. 19, Saddam Hussein finally went on trial.I'd bet on success for the Kurds.
None of this would have been possible without the U.S.-led liberation of Iraq, an operation in which Kurds were proud partners. After the U.S. armed forces, our pesh merga was the second-largest member of the coalition. Today the security forces of Iraqi Kurdistan remain highly capable and reliable allies of the United States. By consistently working with the United States and reaching out to our fellow Iraqis, we have been at the heart of a political process based on equality and inclusion, on consensus and compromise.
Above all, we have taken the path of engagement because, like the United States, we need Iraq to succeed and avoid a repetition of the horrors of the past. We have therefore been engaged in Iraqi national politics and governance.
The United States has never wavered in its quest to help Iraqis build a democracy that rewards compromise and consensus. The ever-generous American people have paid a tragic price, the lives of their finest men and women, to advance the banner of freedom and democracy, a sacrifice for which we are profoundly grateful. We all know that democracy is the only solution to political problems, the only method by which grievances can be addressed. In this war and for these principles, the Kurds are true friends of the United States.
Update 2: The LA Times - as expected - has corrected their initial report:
An article in Thursday's Section A said the Kurdistan Democratic Party had signed a deal with Norwegian company DNO to drill for oil in northern Iraq. The deal was signed by the Kurdistan regional government.Their initial report was attempting to question the legitimacy of the deal, this admission changes the story significantly. A good lesson for those who are over-eager to deny progress in Iraq - and for those who consider newpapers an unquestionable source of accurate or unbiased information.
Why is Kurdistan any of our business? There are regional independence movements all over the place. Why not send the U.S. military into Tibet instead? I'll tell you why: Tibet doesn't have any oil.Posted by Wilson Kolb at December 3, 2005 12:48 AM
Keep your fingers crossed, Wilson. Though you might be waiting an awful long time for your delusions to be confirmed. But if hope is all you have....Posted by Idiot Kolb at December 3, 2005 02:16 AM
Ya, Ya, Ya, Herr Wilson Goebbels ,,,
1> In one sense, you are right that this is about oil ... it is about keeping the Black Gold out of the hands of thugs and terrorists, where they would use it (as Saddam did with Crude-for-Food) to further their own agendas. We have now prevented that in Iraq for the foreseeable future ... and I don't see any of that Black Gold going into the tanks of American Big Oil, either.
2> Speaking of Crude-for-Food, that is a textbook example of how greedy men act ... which (once again, as always, invevitibly) gives the lie to your assertions that this war was fought to feed the greed of American Big Oil.
Greedy people take the easy way out ... and not only would it have been the easy way out for the President, he might have snagged a Nobel Peace Prize for burying-the-hatchet with Saddam this way ... while feeding the greed at the same time. The fact that he chose the hard path also (once again, as always, inevitibly) gives the lie to your implications of greed on his part.
3> We should have sent troops into Tibet ... in 1959. I believe that thugs of any stripe are a threat to the modern world ... oil or not.
However, we listened to your fellow-travelers in diplomacy, stayed out of there ... and now China is so entrenched there that it would be imprudent today to take back Tibet with a full frontal assualt. Better to take down the Communist leadrship of China, by encouraging the spread of free enterprise -- which increases the demands for personal freedom in other areas.
The entrenchment of China today in Tibet, could have been replayed in Iraq in 20-30 years, with Saddam's sons and/or Islamofascists playing the leadership role. However, my President had enough foresight to see that coming ... and act to keep that from happening.
Unlike China, we didn't have the option of "converting" Saddam & Sons by other means -- for while there are checks-and-balances in even a Communist government, there were none (no effective ones, anyway) to hold Saddam & Sons' capricious will in check.
That is, until Uday and Qusay became DEAD-AY at our hands, and Saddam was captured ... thanks to a Real President, as opposed to a politician.
Wilson wanna cracker?
Uh-oh, Ick, sounds like it's time for the Liar in Chief tom stand up for Buddhist self-determination.Posted by Wilson Kolb at December 3, 2005 05:21 AM
He just continued that process, in China, recently.
Of course, you won't see it that way ... Wilson wanna cracker?
"NEWS" FROM IRAQ:
WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 - The military acknowledged Friday in a briefing for a ranking Senate Republican that news articles written by American troops had been placed as paid advertisements in the Iraqi news media and not always properly identified.
Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters after receiving a 25-minute briefing from officials at the Pentagon that senior commanders in Iraq were trying to get to the bottom of a program that apparently also paid monthly stipends to friendly Iraqi journalists.
Mr. Warner said there had been no indications yet that the paid propaganda had been false. But he said that disclosures that an American company, under contract to the Pentagon, was making secret payments to plant articles with positive messages about the United States military mission could undermine the Bush administration's goals in Iraq and jeopardize Iraq's developing democratic institutions. "I remain gravely concerned about the situation," he said.
He said he had been told that the articles or advertisements were intended to counter disinformation in the Iraqi news media that was hurting the American military's efforts to stabilize the country.
Under the program, the Lincoln Group, a Washington-based public relations firm working in Iraq, was hired to translate articles written by American troops into Arabic and then, in many cases, give them to advertising agencies for placement in the Iraqi news media.
"Monthly stipends" = "Bribes"
"The Lincoln Group" is owned by a Republican contributor from Chicago. This was all about planting propaganda in the "free and independent" Iraqi media to lay the groundwork for transmitting the phone reports to the U.S. media.
Not that Greyhawk and his Jawohl! chorus would care. Any lie is a good lie to them.Posted by Wilson Kolb at December 3, 2005 04:18 PM
Mr. Warner said there had been no indications yet that the paid propaganda had been false.
In stark contrast to what is printed in the MSM every day, and frequently repeated by parrots like you.
Of course, the MoveOn/Soros crowd doesn't have to bribe friendly journalists to spread their propaganda in the MSM -- for generating such propaganada is already company policy in many MSM entities, because they are believers as well.
Pot, kettle, black ...