Toward the Independent Republic of Kurdistan.--

Michael Totten has a typically insightful piece on how things are going in Kurdistan:

In January 2005 the Iraqi Kurds held an informal referendum. More than 80 percent turned out to vote. 98.7 percent of those voted to secede from Iraq. Not only have the Kurds long dreamed of independence, when they look south they see only Islamism, Baathism, blood, fire, and mayhem. . . .

Arab Iraqis who want to “keep” Kurdistan ought to thank the heavens for Jalal Talabani, Iraq’s new president and the party chief of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. He belongs to the 1.3 percent of Iraqi Kurds who want to stay connected to Baghdad. The Kurds love Talabani, whom they affectionately call “Mam Jalal” (Uncle Jalal), for leading the militarily successful fight against Saddam Hussein.

Meanwhile, Masoud Barzani, President of Kurdistan and party chief of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, is playing the “bad cop” role. While Talabani is busy in Baghdad trying to hammer out the best federalism bargain the Kurds could ever hope for, Barzani broods in his mountain palace and openly threatens secession.

Not one Iraqi flag is flown in Kurdistan’s capital of Erbil, which doubles as the stronghold of Barzani’s KDP. Only maps will tell you that Erbil is part of Iraq. The Iraqi flag is flown on government buildings in Suleimaniya, the stronghold of the PUK. But it’s the old Iraqi flag, the pre-Saddam Iraqi flag, the one that doesn’t have Allahu Akbar scrawled across the middle of it.

The Kurdistan Regional Government has its own ministers. They report to no one in Baghdad. The Kurds have their own military. They have their own economy. They have their own internal border, and they are its only policemen. The Kurds even have their own foreign policy. Their government is internationally recognized. When Masoud Barzani travels to foreign capitals he is recognized as the President of Iraqi Kurdistan.

I knew that most Kurds want independence, but I had no idea of the numbers.

Much of the article concerns Kirkuk, the oil city to which Saddam imported Sunni Arabs.

At the same time the Kurdistan Regional Government is trying to push one dangerous population out of what they say is their area [relatively newly arrived Arabs out of Kirkuk], they’re actively recruiting a safe population to move north and settle in Kurdistan.

Arab Christians from the south and the center of Iraq are actually given money and housing by the KRG if they move north. Insisting on a purely Kurdish region or a purely Muslim one is the last thing on the establishment’s mind. What they want is geographic federalism or sovereignty. And they need as many well-educated, competent, and trustworthy people as they can find. They don’t care about race, and they don’t care about religion. They are concerned strictly with numbers and security. It's just that some groups are more trusted than others. Arab Christians will never join an Islamist jihad, as everyone knows. And the Kurds trust Arab Christians not to join the Baath either. Arab Muslims can and do move north to Kurdistan as well, but they need approval from the KRG and they are not given incentives.

Fascinating stuff!