Waiting to Watch the War

Charles Glass

An invisible frontier cuts across the North of Iraq for hundreds of miles, from Syria in the west to Iran in the east. This border doesn’t conform to legal, ethnic or tribal boundaries; it ignores mountains, rivers and other natural barriers; it is not even a straight line, like the 36th parallel. The United States likes straight lines, but down on the ground, there aren’t any. The Kurds govern themselves north, not of the 36th parallel, but of the zigzag that sweeps down to take in Kurdish villages far to the south of American air protection, places like Kifri and Kalar. Yet other Kurdish population centres, notably Khanaqin and Kirkuk, are situated south of the frontier, because the Iraqi Army either held or reconquered them during the failed Kurdish uprising in 1991. The rambling area of the Kurdish Autonomous Region is itself divided between the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s administration in the north-west and that of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in the south-east. Within the Region, despite the 1993-96 civil war between the KDP and PUK, which brought in both the Turkish and Iraqi Armies, the Kurds govern themselves with an admirable degree of fairness and efficiency.

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