Knight Ridder's Tom Lasseter slipped away from US government minders for a walkabout in the Kurdish controlled regions of Iraq. And what he found wasn't exactly Lincoln Group approved information.
Kurdish leaders have inserted more than 10,000 of their militia members into Iraqi army divisions in northern Iraq to lay the groundwork to swarm south, seize the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and possibly half of Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, and secure the borders of an independent Kurdistan.To say this article is an eye-opener is a serious understatement. But it shouldn't exactly be a shock, considering the deep-rooted ethnic and tribal divisions in Iraq that have existed for longer than it has been a nation-state. (You know, one of those things we should have been contemplating before we went into Iraq in the first place.)
Five days of interviews with Kurdish leaders and troops in the region suggest that U.S. plans to bring unity to Iraq before withdrawing American troops by training and equipping a national army aren't gaining traction. Instead, some troops that are formally under U.S. and Iraqi national command are preparing to protect territory and ethnic and religious interests in the event of Iraq's fragmentation, which many of them think is inevitable.
Additionally, Sunnis are refusing to take part in any government coalition talks until a full review of allegations of voting fraud is undertaken. The UN has certified the elections as valid, before all the votes have even been counted -- and the Sunnis are far from happy with this.
Swopa and Juan Cole have much more on these issues.
Sure, the US troop reductions and allies leaving the country are due to the Iraqis stepping up and doing really well, and have nothing to do with the continued instability there and the upcoming 2006 elections and substantial nervousness on the part of Republicans in Congress over election prospects.
Things are clearly going swimmingly in Iraq. So long as you don't mind the sharks.
(Photo from the NC Aquarium website.)
UPDATE: Congratulations to Dan Froomkin and his wife on the birth of their son, Max.