Believe it or not, the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government has a website in English – flawless English – at www.krg.org. From what I’ve read, they haven’t said anything about the topic of the OP – whether they would resist U.S. occupation. However, they definitely and clearly have resolved not to allow any Turkish troops into territory they control.
If a northern front does open in this war, the Iraqi Kurds will be in the same position as the Finns in WWII – fighting BOTH sides just to retain their independence. We can’t expect them to welcome American troops as “liberators” if the Turks are marching alongside them and bringing their own agenda along.
(There are also websites for the American Kurdish Information Network at www.kurdistan.org; and the Faili (Iranian) Kurds, at home.bip.net/faili.kurd; and there’s a Kurdish Links Directory at www.mathaba.net/www/kurdistan/index.shtml.)
The Turks claim a legitimate interest in northern Iraq to prevent the Iraqi Kurds from declaring independence and inspiring the Turkish Kurds; and, perhaps, based on historical claims to the Ottoman “vilayet” of Mosul (but then, ALL Iraq was Ottoman territory until WWI). They also claim an interest in protecting the ethnic Turkmens (national brothers, or at least cousins, of the Turks) from Arab and Kurdish oppression alike. By sheer coincidence, the Turkmen regions at issue include Kirkuk and its surrounding oilfields.
It get even better/worse. There is yet another ethnic minority with national aspirations in northern Iraq: The Assyrians. They claim descent from the dominant nation of the ancient Assyrian Empire. (I don’t know whether this claim is valid; maybe they just CALL themselves Assyrians.) They are Christians, and claim they were Christians before the Roman Empire was converted. They don’t speak ancient Assyrian – that language is extinct – but they do speak a non-Arabic Semitic language, Aramaic – the same language Jesus spoke, or at least a dialect of it. In fact, the Assyrians claim their Bible, the “Peshitta,” is the most authentic version because it’s written in the original Aramaic.
The Assyrians don’t get on with the Kurds because the territory the Kurds think of as “Kurdistan” also includes the territory the Assyrians think of as “Assyria.” They have English-language websites, too: Atour, The State of Assyria, at www.atour.com; Nineveh On Line, at www.nineveh.com; Assyria Online, at www.aina.org/aol; and the Assyrian International News Agency, at www.aina.org.
Things are seldom simple, and this is clearly not one that is.
Another potential conflict that nobody, so far as I know, has mentioned yet is Khuzestan, or Arabistan, the southwestern Iranian province which is inhabited by Arab Shiites, and which borders the Arab Shiite southeastern region of Iraq. I’ve never heard of the Khuzestanis expressing any discontent with Iranian rule – but if the Iraqi Shiites seize the opportunity to break away from Baghdad, who knows, the Khuzestanis might see a chance of breaking away from Tehran, merging with Shiite Iraq, and forming one big Arabistan around the mouths of the Two Rivers, with its capital at Basra. By the same token, the Iranians might get the idea that any Shiite territory on their borders is theirs by right, regardless of the people’s ethnicity.
If I were in Bush’s shoes – well, I would have tried to avoid this war in the first place, but if I were bent on it, I would NOT try to open a northern front; it just creates even more chances for chaos than we’re already facing. A one-front war will be harder for us but safer in the long run. That way, we can occupy the Basra and Baghdad regions, we can treat the Kurds as “allies” and more or less leave them alone, and the Turks will have less of an excuse to cross the border (in strength, I mean; according to earlier posts on this thread the Turks have a few thousand troops in northern Iraq already).
The very best possible outcome of this war, in my view, would be for it to somehow produce an independent Kurdistan encompassing the Iraqi, Turkish AND Iranian Kurds. The new Kurdistan would be economically viable if it held Kirkuk and its oil; the Turkmens and Assyrians might be given independent microstates of their own, or might be satisfied with federal autonomy within Kurdistan. Kurdistan would stop being an intractable problem and become a useful and easily defensible buffer state between all its fractious neighbors. It’s all mountains, and mountains, once you control them, make good defenses, at least against invasion by ground troops; just ask the Swiss. Meanwhile, Turkey, relieved of both its southeastern provinces and its endlessly vexing Kurdish question, would have suffered a major national humiliation, but at the same time gained the luxury of drastically improving its human-rights record, opening the door to that long-coveted EU membership and a real, effective voice in the European Parliament. And if things remain quiet for just a few years, even Kurdistan just might maybe possibly be considered for EU membership!
HOW the above scenario could result is a mystery to me.
Worst-case scenario: Both the U.S. and Turkey invade Iraq at the same time. For reasons discussed above, this touches off a multi-sided war between Iraq (what’s left of it), the Americans and British, the Turks, the Kurds, the Turkmens, the Assyrians, and maybe even the Iraqi Shiites, the Iranian Khuzestanis, and the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Saudi Arabians will sit the whole thing out but it’s all going to make them very, very nervous, and it’s not hard to imagine events that would lead to us invading them, too, in four or five years.
Since the newly elected prime minister of Turkey openly favors the northern-front policy, I think we can see which of these outcomes is the likeliest.
All I can say is, I’m glad I don’t live there.