Crossfire War – KURDISTAN WATCH – West Asia Theatre: Tehran – Kirkuk/Baghdad – Washington; Kurdistan Secedes from Iraq – Kurds Hoist Own Flag – Iraq PM Condemn’s Move – Arab/Kurd Division
Night Watch: KIRKUK – AP reports that the President of Iraq’s South Kurdistan Masoud Barzani has ordered the removal of flags of the government in Baghdad and to be replaced by the flag of Kurdistan. He stated that the former flag represented the repressive government of the Ba’ath party under Saddam Hussein, during which genocidal acts were committed against Kurdish people. [KURDMEDIA]
But reports of Iraq’s current Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ‘s response seem to indicate that he sees this as more than just a statement against the recent past but as a serious threat to his government’s sovereignty. Reuters reports that his office issued this statement, “The Iraqi flag is the only flag that should be raised over any square inch of Iraq.” [SWISSINFO]
The flag dispute is symbolic of the second great division of the country after the Sunni/Shi’ite sectarian war currently raging, that of the division between Arab/Kurd. Iraq’s national flag is seen by the Kurds as an example of Arab nationalism. In the meantime the Kurds have been frustrated, throughout their entire history, in their attempts to acheive their own nation state. Usually their main enemy is Turkey, but in Iraq with its current divisions, has provided the Kurds with an economically and politically viable territorial base of operations.
Kurdistan, in northern Iraq, has been the most stable area in the country since Saddam’s overthrow and they are obviously using the chaos in the rest of the country to achieve any degree of independence they can. They also know Baghdad is in no position to enforce any statement. The next step is international recognition. Do not be surprised if it comes from Tehran, which can use the Kurdish flag to further embarrass the U.S. led occupation, the lost alliance of London-Washington. If any shooting gets started I suspect the Kurds would win, even without any outside support.
This new divisive crisis could extend even to Prime Minister al-Maliki’s own government. The President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani is Kurdish. Of course he has no problems with the new flag. If he is forced out of the government then the Baghdad government could collaspe. And that could be exactly what Tehran wants to see. In the military-political free-for-all that would follow, Tehran will make certain the groups they support are the best armed. Tehran may even consider supporting a Shi’ite – Kurd alliance that would militarily cooperate against Sunni militias. The collaspe of al-Maliki’s administration would also mean the destruction of Iraq’s new National Army and completely defeat London-Washington’s effort to train a force that could replace them.