Terror in Kurdistan


posted to www.marxmail.org on February 3, 2004


Today's NY Times has an op-ed piece by Peter W. Galbraith, the former US Ambassador to Croatia, blaming the recent suicide bomb attacks on terrorists who infiltrated Kurdistan when border controls were relaxed under US pressure:


"Until Sunday, the Kurdish lands had been largely free of the terrorism and chaos that has plagued the rest of the country. In April, they protested American demands to dismantle the controls on the border separating them from the rest of newly freed Iraq. They argued that it would let terrorists in. When the Americans relented months later as chaos grew in the south, many Kurds felt it was too late. The bombings on Sunday will reinforce widely shared doubts about a closer association with Baghdad."


full: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/03/opinion/03GALB.html


His op-ed piece supports the perspective laid out in another op-ed piece by Leslie Gelb that I took note of in my swans.com article on the Kurds. (http://www.swans.com/library/art10/iraq/proyect.html) Gelb proposed that Iraq be divided into three separate states: Kurdish in the North; Sunni in the Center and Shi'ite in the South. It is clear that somebody like Galbraith, who was a key player in the breakup of Yugoslavia, would be enthusiastic over such a solution. Perhaps the only thing holding back a break-up of Iraq is opposition from Turkey, a state with much more clout than the Kurds--a Bishop in comparison to a pawn, so to speak.


From Galbraith's op-ed piece you would get the impression of something like Palestinians crawling under a fence to attack a Tel Aviv restaurant. Some fanatic from the Sunni triangle snuck across the borders with Kurdistan while nobody was looking and crashed the celebrations at Kurdish HQ's. This impression might be reinforced by accusations from Kurd leaders that Ansar al-Islam was involved. By all accounts, this is an armed group that is believed to be allied with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida.


There's one problem, however. Ansar al-Islam is also supposed to be based *inside* Kurdistan. Since al-Qaida is supposedly an expression of Islamic fundamentalism, why would such a group operate inside Kurdistan? As it turns out, the answer is quite simple. Ansar al-Islam is made up of Kurds who *are* Islamic fundamentalists, a fact that never entered Galbraith's op-ed piece or figures at all in the hysterical coverage about the suicide bombings.


According to Human Rights Watch:


"Scores of Iraqi Kurds affiliated to Ansar al-Islam, including key leaders, consider themselves veterans of the Afghan war. They had spent time in Afghanistan, initially fighting against Soviet forces during the 1980s. Representatives of other Iraqi Kurdish Islamist groups who maintain links with Ansar al-Islam told Human Rights Watch that a small number of Iraqi Kurds affiliated to the group had also fought alongside the Taliban, and that they then returned to Iraqi Kurdistan following the latter's defeat."


Ansar has its roots in something called the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan (IMK) which received 6 percent of the vote in 1991. If there are 4 million Kurds in Iraq, this means that Ansar has a social and political base among 200,000 people. With such a substantial base, it seems that plugging holes in the border is not the answer, especially since it has been reported that the suicide bombers came into the Kurdish headquarters without any suspicions being raised about their appearance or language. As might be expected, the suicide bombings have increased the intensity of the demands for a separate Kurdish state, which will no doubt increase the contradictions between Turkey and the USA. Whatever illusions the US imperialists once had about a cake-walk, they will continue to be dashed in coming months.