Qubad Talabani: We Kurds want guarantees
we will be protected by US
the United States decides to pull out before the job
is done, “we Kurds want guarantees we will be
March 30, 2007
SIERRA VISTA, USA, -- The Kurds in Iraq are
afraid they will again be left in a lurch if
American troops are forced to leave next year, the
Kurdistan representative to the United States said
If the U.S. leaves early and does not protect the
Kurds, it will be the third time in a little more
than three decades the ethnic group will have been
betrayed by the United States, Qubad Jalal Talabani
said during an afternoon sit-down interview with the
Herald/Review. Earlier Thursday morning, Talabani
spoke to nearly 350 people during the last day of a
and Doctrine Command Cultural Awareness Summit.
Qubad J. Talabani, representative of the Kurdistan
regional government to the United States, talks
about the Middle
East during the TRADOC Culture Training Summit on
In 1974, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger led the
United States away from supporting a Kurdish
After the first Gulf War against Iraq in the early
1990s, “we believed (President George) Bush senior,”
Talabani said. When the current President George H.W.
Bush’s father called for Iraqis to rise up against
Saddam Hussein and promised support, the Kurds and
Shiites in southern Iraq did, only to see the United
States turn its back.
The end result was Hussein killed thousands of Kurds
and caused others to flee into the Turkish mountains
for protection, where many died of exposure.
Marsh Arabs near Basra also were killed.
Trust is difficult
“We didn’t trust the United States after that,”
But with the full commitment of American forces
finally toppling Hussein in 2003, Kurds once again
were willing to take a chance on America.
If the United States decides to pull out before the
job is done, “we Kurds want guarantees we will be
protected,” he said.
All of Iraq is watching the current debate in the
U.S. Congress over supplemental bills to pay for
America’s work in Iraq and Afghanistan, but that
would include a pullout next year. If such a bill is
finalized, President George H. Bush has said he will
Talabani said Iraq is facing a difficult time in
establishing a federal style of government, which is
made worse by some American political leaders who
want to force an American style government on the
Iraqis, he said.
Iraqis must decide
“We want a federal government, but one that fits our
needs,” Talabani said, noting there area many types
of national federal governments, ticking off
Switzerland, Canada, Australia and others besides
the United States. He said it may be best for Iraqis
to pick and choose from the different forms and mold
them to fit the needs of a muti-cultural Iraqi
Iraq does not have a history of good governance.
During its modern existence, which has been about
eight decades, the decisions were centralized and
mostly done by dictators.
“Iraq has been a failed state,” the son of the
current Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said.
It also will be difficult to create a political
system “when the social fabric is torn,” he said.
Many Iraqi communities have been left out of the
process in the ruling process, Talabani said. Since
the British establishment of modern Iraq, the
minority Sunni Arabs have been in control. The
Shiite Muslims have been oppressed for more than a
1,000 years, and the Kurds have been for hundreds of
With the fall of Saddam Hussein ending Sunni
domination, that group believes they are being
oppressed, although it has only been for four years,
“It is very true Iraq is a traumatized country, a
traumatized society,” he said during his speech.
Though the Kurds, an Aryan race that speaks an
Indo-European language, are primarily Sunnis, the
Arab Sunnis have not treated them well, he said.
Kurds are also Shiite and Christian.
But Kurds have a more secular outlook on life, which
is why the Kurds want a federal government, Talabani
Centuries ago the Kurds were a nation spread across
what is now Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. Attempts
to re-establish a Kurdish homeland have been beaten
Kurdistan economic power
Talabani said Kurdistan in Iraq is an economic power
in the nation, and concerns have been expressed by
the other areas that oil revenues will not be
With the proper government, the oil revenues will be
shared because they will be taxed, as they are in
the United States, he said. The revenue will then
spread around like in America.
Talabani does know that the Kurdish area of Iraq is
the most peaceful and entrepreneurial, which can be
an example for the rest of the country. The distrust
prevelant today came from seeds planted nearly a
When modern Iraq was founded, the first thing the
Iraqi army did “was put down a Christian uprising,”
Talabani said. The nation’s military has always been
used to quell internal dissent.
Turmoil between Sunni and Shiites was the problem
within Arab Muslim culture, Talabani said. The
conflict between Sunni and Shiites within the Kurds
is not as great.
With a laugh, he said there is a Kurdish joke that
says “We are neither Shi’a or Sunni. We are ‘Shunni.’
Arabs of all beliefs in Iraq face a need to get over
feelings that they are better than anyone else in
Iraq, Talabani said. Throughout the world, there are
more non-Arab Muslims and they are offended by the
superior attitude of Arabs.
Within Iraq, the country will continue to suffer
until the Arab and non-Arab citizens can get along
better, he said.
An important adviser
Before he spoke, Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast, commander
of the Intelligence Center and Fort Huachuca, said
Talabani has been involved in Kurdish politics from
a young age. He has been an important adviser to his
father, and the general said that during a visit to
the senior Talabani’s home in Iraq she saw the
younger man in a place of honor.
“He was sitting at the right hand side of his
father,” Fast said.
The Talabanis have “been longtime friends of the
United States,” the general added.
That friendship has “his (the younger Talabani’s)
fingerprints along with his father,” she said.
Speaking to the crowd at The Palms, the president’s
son said, “Iraq has undergone a major transformation
over the past four years.”
The transformation isn’t exactly what the Iraqis
expected or wanted, Talabani said. The euphoria of
the end of the Hussein regime has been taken over by
the despair of the insurgency. Some of the problems
were caused by Iraqis, but others can be placed at
the feet of Americans.
Talabani said too many American politicians became
involved directing what they thought should be
policy in Iraq without understanding the cultures
A Doonesbury cartoon some time ago caught the
essence of the conflict between Shiite and Sunni, he
said. As the cartoon panels unfolded — which was of
an American officer and an Iraqi officer driving
along the streets of Baghdad — the American said
they were going to take a Sunni into custody. The
Iraqi officer, a Shiite, said he knew where the man
lived and was pleased he would be arrested.
As the story goes, the Shiite officer told the
American that one of the Sunni’s relatives killed
one of his relatives. When the American asked when,
the Iraqi responded “in 1387.”
The cartoon showed how far back the anger goes in
part of Iraqi society, Talabani said.
Once Americans came into Iraq, they were seen as
occupiers. Instead of doing what good occupiers
should do, the United States failed, he said.
The people blamed the Americans if a light bulb
didn’t work because it was the responsibility of the
occupier to make things work, Talabani said. Iraqis
listened to rumors and began to resent Americans,
who did not counter the falsehoods fast enough.
In the Kurdish region, there was unhappiness with
Americans at the beginning, he said.
For example, one day he stopped as a woman was
yelling at a GI sitting on the tank. The woman
wanted electricity to run a fan because it was hot
and she thought the GI was cool, even though he was
sweating, because there was a rumor Americans had
Talabani said it becomes difficult to counter what
is not true after it “goes through the neighborhoods
and tea gardens.”
There were more serious issues, such as a female
American soldier using her foot to hold down a
“To regain his honor he had to go out and set off a
bomb,” Talabani said.
Future far off
During his interview, he said that although he would
like to see an Iraq at peace and prosperity in five
years, it is not a vision that will happen.
“There’s just too much hatred that will take
generations to overcome,” Talabani said.
The anger will continue as long as the nation’s
capital city is in turmoil.
“Baghdad is the prize, the center of the problem,”
he said, noting between 500,000 and 700,000 of the
nation’s 6 million Kurds live in the city.
Pessimistically optimistic, Talabani said he does
have a dream: “Iraq to be a federal democracy, a
symbol of tolerance.”
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