Friday, June 20, 2014

David Phillips @ CNBC: The End of Iraq and Beginning of Iraqi Kurdistan



I COULDN'T AGREE MORE WITH PHILLIP'S WISE ASSESSMENT.   Life in Iraq will never go on like the feckless and sweet Obama WH wishfully thinks it should. Instead, Phillips gives what I consider a wise take on what can and should realistically happen in the face of recent sectarian violence----not to mention thousands of years of mayhem in the Middle East----between extreme Sunnis and Shiites:
The Obama administration hopes that Iraq's sectarian and ethnic groups can reconcile and share power. It wants Iran to convince Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to make concessions that placate Iraq's Arab Sunnis and stabilize the crisis. National reconciliation is the best possible outcome, but it is unlikely. Working with Iran is a flawed strategy that would alarm Sunnis and alienate U.S. allies in the Gulf. The United States must be steely-eyed. Iraq is a failed state on the verge of collapse. The Obama administration must be careful not to encourage a break-out by the Kurds. At the same time, it needs a plan if Iraq falls apart and Kurdistan declares independence. The U.S. must anticipate events that would compel its recognition of Iraqi Kurdistan as an independent sovereign state.
I agree. An Iraqi Kurdistan has always appealed to me. And why shouldn't it?
If Iraq disintegrates, the United States can still preserve its core interests by working in conjunction with the Kurds. Iraqi Kurdistan is pro-Western, secular, and democratic. It has a proven track record of security and economic cooperation with the West. 
In addition, Iraqi Kurdistan is rich in minerals and energy supplies. There are 45 billion barrels of proven oil reserves and vast natural gas fields. Exxon and other U.S. energy companies have a stake. Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey, America's ally and NATO member, are working closely together in the energy sector. Energy supplies from Iraqi Kurdistan are transported via new pipelines to Ceyhan, a Turkish port on the Eastern Mediterranean. Natural gas from fields northeast of Suleimani will feed into the Nabucco pipeline, supplying Turkish and European markets.
Indeed, Phillip's stand out piece (read the whole thing including the  utter, unrealistic silliness of working with Iran) only gets better:
Additionally, an independent Iraqi Kurdistan would serve as a buffer between Turkey and Iraq. It could help prevent chaos, violence, ad refugees from spilling across the border. Iraq was an artificial construct created by Great Powers at the end of the Ottoman Empire. Shiites and Sunnis have been in conflict for 13 centuries. Reconciliation is an even more remote possibility under current conditions of deadly violence. Read MoreKeystone pipeline debate: Iraq's turmoil sharpens arguments Instead of trying to placate its adversaries, the Obama administration should support the Kurds. It must see Iraq as it is, not how it wants Iraq to be. Wishful thinking is not a policy, nor effective crisis management. A new map of the Middle East is emerging.
Phillips is suggesting a real and sustainable Kurdish spring is emerging. The Obama administration's wishful thinking about an Arab spring will never happen as we are seeing time and time again.

Commentary by David L. Phillips, director of the Program on Peace-building and Human Rights at Columbia University's Institute for the Study of Human Rights. He is a former senior adviser and foreign affairs expert to the U.S. Department of State during the administrations of Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama. He is also author of the forthcoming book, "The Kurdish Spring: A New Map for the Middle East" (Transaction Publishers).

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