The Iraq Study Group report, which alleges to offer recommendations by which the United States can "de-quagmirify" itself from Iraq, is a bummer. By all means, keep it off your Amazon.com wish list. You'd be better off with a seventh copy of Marley & Me.
It's not the grim assessment of U.S. options in Iraq that gets me down. I saw that coming. What I didn't see coming was the report's painful stupidity.
For example, take this passage: "If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences could be severe. A slide toward chaos could trigger the collapse of Iraq's government and a humanitarian catastrophe. Neighboring countries could intervene. Sunni-Shia clashes could spread. Al Qaeda could win a propaganda victory and expand its base of operations. The global standing of the United States could be diminished. Americans could become more polarized."
Yowza! Did it really take a blue ribbon of former secretaries of state and defense the better part of a year to "warn" us about something that has already happened? This just in: I predict that San Francisco will be leveled by an earthquake in 1906. Report to follow.
As it turns out, I'm not the only person saying "WTF?" to the ISG.
President Bush has signaled to reporters that he's not very keen on the report's recommendations that he pull out the bulk of U.S. troops by 2008 and begin diplomatic negotiations with Syria and Iran ASAP. His nose-thumbing might be real, or it might be a "stay the course cuz I'm the decider" head fake before he embraces the report's call to cut and run. Did I say cut and run? I meant "phased redeployment." My bad.
Among those most upset about the Iraq Study Group report -- but among those whose upset you will hear about least in the coming days -- are Iraq's Kurds.
In a nutshell, Kurds are worried that the ISG's recommendations, if implemented, will screw them over. Say what?
The report makes a big deal about unity, reconciliation and regional cooperation in Iraq. Americans may like the sound of those words, but to Iraq's Kurds, they're code words implying that Kurds will be asked to give up all of, if not all of, what they want.
What is it that Iraq's Kurds want?
They want independence. Not now, but soon. In a non-binding referendum last year, 98.5 percent of Kurds affirmed their preference for an independent Kurdish state. The remaining 1.5 percent inadvertently voted for Pat Buchanan.
The ISG report includes several recommendations that could slow or stop Kurdish independence.
First, the ISG wants to delay a proposed vote that would allow Iraqi Kurds to annex the oil-rich, multiethnic city of Kirkuk to their autonomous region of Iraq. The ISG thinks a vote would lead to increased bloodshed. Kurds believe that Kirkuk is rightfully theirs. It's their Jerusalem, their spiritual, economic and political capital. In their view, it was stolen from them by Saddam Hussein, and any effort to stop them from getting it back is an affront.
Secondly, the ISG proposes that Iraq's central government control the country's oil revenues so that they can be shared equally among Iraq's ethnic and religious groups. The Kurds, who live atop a disproportionate share of Iraq's oil, don't want to share oil revenue with anyone, least of all the Sunni Arab Iraqis who oppressed and murdered them so prolifically.
Thirdly, the ISG recommends that neighboring Turkey be invited into regional negotiations about Iraq. Turkey's interest in Iraq is to make sure that Kurds never-ever declare independence from Iraq. Turkey fears that Kurdish independence from Iraq will spur Turkey's large Kurdish population to try to break off from Turkey and join independent Kurdistan.
Iraq's Kurds heard alarm bells when they saw the ISG request for Turkey to be at the negotiating table. Iraq's Kurds are worried that their interests will be sacrificed for the sake of pleasing Turkey. To some Kurds, the ISG report is a prelude to yet another betrayal by the United States of Kurdish nationalism. I'll talk about that more next week.
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