Sunday, June 10, 2007
Moqtada And The Kurds
Since he came out of hiding in the end of May, Moqtada al-Sadr has tried to re-position himself as a leader of national unification. Until this weekend, that consisted mainly of reaching out to the Sunni insurgency in an effort to undermine the governing coalition of Nouri al-Maliki. But today al-Sadr showed both his political skill and opportunism by taking advantage of the conflict between Turkey and the PKK to broaden his nationalist appeal.
Here's how he condemned the Turkish bombardment of Iraqi Kurdistan, according to an AP dispatch:
We will not stay silent in the face of these transgressions because our faith and our nation call upon us to defend Iraq and every inch of its territory, which we consider to be holy.
Meanwhile, Le Monde quoted him as declaring, "The Kurdish people are part of Iraq, and it is our duty to defend them." (Translated from the French.)
It's a clever move, not only because it reinforces his new image of a leader who transcends the sectarian divide. It also "Iraqifies" the problem at a time when the US was trying to localize it to the Kurdish north. What's more, the added attention can only exacerbate what is a thorny issue for everyone involved, but especially for the US. Should the crisis escalate, it will ultimately force our hand: either we choose sides between the Turkish and the Kurds, or else we wade into the middle of another shooting war in Iraq.
Either way it adds problems to America's Iraqi plate, which only strengthens Moqtada's hand.