An Illusory Way for the Kurds

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Review of 'The Future of Iraq', Liam Anderson and Gareth Stansfield, Palgrave £16.99

Since the US invasion of Iraq last March, Iraqi Kurdistan has all but vanished from the headlines. The Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan have taken their turns heading the US-appointed Governing Council.

As Gareth Stansfield and Liam Anderson explain, the problem for the Kurds is that their position in the 'new Iraq' is precarious. The conditions which created the 'anomaly' of a semi-independent Iraqi Kurdistan, are unlikely to apply for much longer. Yet the history of Iraq - described in this book as a state distorted by imperialism and riven by ethnic conflicts - gives the Kurds little reason to believe that their rights will be respected in future.

Throughout the 20th century, Stansfield and Anderson argue, the Kurds have been on the receiving end of the violence unleashed by the 'tortured pathology' of the Iraqi state. The Future of Iraq provides an answer: the creation of a fully independent Iraqi Kurdistan under US military protection.

The idea that by turning Iraqi Kurdistan into a military encampment from which the US could dominate the remnant of Arab Iraq, the Kurds will finally achieve peace and security is a cruel illusion. As Stansfield and Anderson demonstrate in their analysis of Iraqi history, the Kurds have been betrayed time and again by the imperialist powers.

Moreover, the creation of an independent Kurdish state would most likely involve yet another bout of ethnic cleansing in oil-rich Kirkuk. Control over the Kirkuk oilfield would be a crucial bargaining chip for the new Kurdish government. Yet as a result of Saddam Hussein's policy of Arabisation, which saw thousands of Kurdish families deported from Kirkuk over the past two decades, the city is now equally split between Arab, Kurd and Turkoman. In order to enforce Kurdish dominance, a quarter of a million Arabs would have to be forced out.

The tragedy of the Balkans shows clearly that attempts to erase the legacy of ethnic cleansing by repeating the same process in reverse only store up hatred for the future.