By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
While the Iraqi Army is busy dismantling the last vestiges of the so-called Islamic State (I.S.) caliphate, that war-torn country’s Kurdish population is gearing up for a fight of its own.
Based in Iraqi Kurdistan, Iranian and Iraqi Kurds alike are now preparing for a battle on two fronts, one with Baghdad and one with Tehran.
Iraq’s and Iran’s Kurdish populations have been intermittently at war with the region’s other two major ethnic groups (Sunnis and Shi’ites) for hundreds of years.
And now, with the independence referendum by a Peshmerga Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that took place on Sept. 25, hostilities are bond to get even tenser.
If Iraq does not agree to surrender part of its sovereign territory to the Kurds, the KRG will take what it wants by force.
And the governments of Iran, Turkey and Syria are quite rightly concerned that the resulting violence will open the door for more Kurdish assaults in their respective countries.
Despite a series of conciliatory actions on the part of both national governments to appease Kurdish sensitivities and provide a degree of ethnic autonomy, clashes between Kurdish fighters and Iraqi and Iranian forces have become the daily bread in Kurdistan.
And in the last few months, the violence has spilled over to disrupt civilian life throughout the region.
Iraqi Kurdish officials had insisted that the plebiscite would be peaceful and that Kurds in the region wanted to maintain cordial relations with Iraq, Iran and Turkey.
But the Kurds past and current behavior is evidence to the contrary.
The fact of the matter is that Kurds are only willing to play ball with their neighbors when it behooves their interests or helps to promote their ultimate goal of independence.
In Syria, they have openly declared that they will settle for nothing short of full sovereignty, and they have no qualms about using force to get it.
In Turkey, the brutal acts of the separatist terrorist group Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is proof of their unwillingness to coexist with other cultures.
Right now, the West is playing kissy-face with the Kurds in Iraq (who have helped to contain I.S.) and Iran (who are helping to keeping Tehran’s expansionist ambitions in check).
But it is only a matter of time before these Kurdish fighters turn on their U.S. and European backers and bite the hand that is now feeding them with artillery and ammunition.
The political and social instability in semiautonomous Iraqi Kurdistan is an ominous prelude of what would happen should the region gain full sovereignty.
If there is ever to be peace in the Middle East, the Kurds are going to have to give up their war with the dominant ethnicities of the region and learn to live in peaceful coexistence.
And that means leaving their guns at the door before heading to any more ballot boxes.
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.