Carter Andress at National Review notes yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the Halabja massacre conducted by Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein. Hussein had warplanes and artillery drop mustard gas and nerve agent on the Kurdish town and killed approximately 5,000 people, almost the entire population. The attack initiated a wider campaign of genocide agains the Kurds that killed almost 150,000 and eliminated as many as 1,000 villages in northern Iraq. The rationale for the killing was two-fold; as an ethnic minority in Iraq with their own national aspirations, Hussein doubted their political reliability, and then there was that expensive black stuff in the ground.
"This ethnic cleansing of Kurds, while part of Saddam’s “Arabization” project, also had its pragmatic side: The Kurds were predominant in the oil-rich and strategically important areas of northern Iraq, and oil money could help their separatist movement. Perhaps for this reason, Saddam began his assault on the Kurds in 1979, as soon as he became president of Iraq. But he was no means the only guilty party. The entire Iraqi leadership, as well as tens of thousands of Iraqi army personnel and security forces, were culpable in these sickening crimes against humanity that continued until Saddam was removed from power."
Andress also notes how the Kurds have been both some the strongest proponents of the new Iraqi government but also one of the biggest stumbling blocks. Individual Kurds are signing up in increasing numbers for the new Iraqi army, and heavily involved and participating in the new political process in the Iraqi parliament. However, they have been a obstacle in the creation of the new national oil law, which the Kurds believe currently gives too much power to the central government. The elephant in the room, however, is the status of the city of Kirkuk. The 2005 Iraqi Constitution called for the city's status to be decided by the end of last year. The question whether it will be a part of the Kurdish region has yet to be resolved.