Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Wrong U.S. Course Leads to British Hostage Crisis

The Independent is reporting that the surprise US-led raid on an Iranian post in Arbil, Iraq last January (stemming from underreported inter-Kurd territory tensions and the U.S. need to quell and control those tensions in fragile Northern Iraq) is ultimately responsible for the taking of those British hostages. It could have easily led to military hostilities in Iran. This whole story - honestly told - shows you how fine a line we are treading in order to keep this Iraq war from becoming a much wider regional conflict. Unless the course is finally changed, the brawn of escalation with no diplomatic brain engaged is going to take us to a regional conflict that never should have been allowed to fester and explode.

UPDATE: Envoy to Meet Detained Iranians, WaPo 4-4-07

From the pages of "Yeah, right!"...
Zebari insisted the case of the five detained Iranians had no connection to the 15 British sailors and marines detained by the Iranian navy in the Gulf last month.

"I'd like to make absolutely clear the two cases have no linkage or connection," he said, reacting to media reports that moves to release the one group of detainees could be reciprocated with the other
Even though it's obvious I don't believe there's no link, I do see that some back-channel diplomacy must be effective when I read this:
"The new American political and military appointments in Iraq have been effective in the breakthrough," the Iranian agency said, referring to the new U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, who took office this week, and the new overall U.S. military commander, who took over in February.
Patrick Cockburn has more on the Arbil link.

A Reuters article that, in my opinion, conveys an overly sunny tone becuae it covers the political rhetoric of outgoing U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, offers prime minister of the Kurdistan region Nechirvan Barzani's summary of what he says are the Kurds' concerns:
..four key concerns: a fair share of Iraq's revenues; resolving the status of disputed areas, particularly the city of Kirkuk which lies outside of Kurdistan; freedom to direct its own economic development; and a fair share of reconstruction funds from abroad.

The status of Kirkuk -- a mixed city where Kurds, Shi'ites, Turkmen and Sunni Arabs live together -- is a delicate subject, not least because it sits on some of Iraq's richest oil fields.
There are voices not represented in decidedly sunnier mainstream articles that are no less real. There is passion in the voice of one exiled Kurd who wants to return to a land far more just and fair to his ethnic sensibilities than what is being negotiated away by those he sees as "occupiers:"
To approach the issue of Kirkuk in such a feeble way weakens the energy and power of Kirkuk’s Kurdistanism. Will the enemies not ask: what is the point that the Kurds once made revolution and sacrifices for the sake of this city? Why today we accept any price and surrender? Kurds once used to fight thunderstorms. Now they feebly mention what is their own right. Is it that the secret of Kurdish courage faded away with the death of Barzani?

"While the Kurds refer to Kirkuk as the "Kurdish Jerusalem," control of the oil resources and the city's likely attachment to the Kurdish semiautonomous region just to the north was believed the driving motivation for the threat to bring down the government. - Bassem Mroue, AP

It is impossible to establish a strategic partnership between Turkey and the Kurds without basing the relations on mutual benefit and a common future, not on reciprocal nationalist slogans that poison relations. When considered from this angle, oil becomes a crucial ingredient." - Turkish Daily News

The dust-ups between Arbil and Baghdad over oil are just beginning.
If Turkey wants to utilize and exploit the oil resources of northern Iraq, it needs to approach Arbil, not Baghdad, says Kurdistan Regional Government Natural Resources (or oil) Minister Dr. Ashti Hawrami. He believes it would be in Turkey's interest to deal with the regional government, arguing that Baghdad can only be an intermediary but not an interlocutor concerning the exploration and exploitation of the oil in northern Iraq.
The oil relations between the new Iraqi government and Turkey may not be easy to establish while there are existing Kurdish tensions, regardless of the recent oil [profit-sharing] law that has been agreed upon. By U.S. unilateral involvement, America is now beholden to the corrupt politics of oil. The Bush administration has created a monster that has magnified their actual reason for misleading U.S. citizens and the world about WMD in 2002. No lofty goals, although we were fed so many lofty goals.
The regional oil minister said oil could either be a factor that causes problems between the two sides, or a link that binds the two together. The Kurdistan Regional Government controls three of the 18 provinces of the country, Dohuk, Arbil and Sulaimania. When asked how much oil was in the region, Hawrami said: “Between 20 to 25 billion barrels. We believe we can produce a million barrels a day.” He says they didn't need every drop of the oil extracted, noting, “You have a population of 70 million. This is an opportunity god provided for you right next door. Come here and exploit it.” When asked if this meant the argument that Kurds wanted Kirkuk for independence, he said: “I am not a politician. Let's leave Kirkuk to them. With or without Kirkuk, we have plenty of oil.” While two known oil reserves of Kirkuk is 12 billion barrels, Dr. Hawrawi believes there is an additional 10 billion there. Naturally, having plenty of oil reserves does not mean much alone. On the road to Arbil from Kirkuk, people were selling gasoline in barrels on the side of the road.

War of words over Kirkuk intensifies, Azzaman.com


Larry said...

The U.S has also turn down an offer from Iran to swap the British hostages for 6 Iranians the U.S have had in custody mor months.

The U.S refused.


Edward said...

Your article is very direct and helpful to all of us who are blind about the real issue sorrounding the government, however is it not so nice having to interfer govermnet policy. Are you a democrat or republican may I ask?