Feeling sorry today for Jeffery Gettleman, the New York Times’ East Africa bureau chief. In an article in Monday’s Times on covering Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recently concluded 11-day Africa jaunt, Mr. Gettleman quips that “The press corps are steerage at the back of the plane, the only ones in economy seats (the rest are business-class and Mrs. Clinton has her own bedroom on board).”
A word to Mr. Gettleman: Be mindful; there are those who would trade an arm/leg/critical organ for a seat on that plane, even one in the lavatory. Not naming any names, but among them there may be one whose name rhymes with Bivenson. Once again, not naming any names.
In the same article, he uses the example of a rain-soaked amputee soccer game to illustrate the differences between Hillary’s diplomacy (which the article generally serves to laud) and Bill’s, who it is claimed would have taken the opportunity for a diplomatically advantageous Kodak moment, while Hillary sped by in her motorcade. In light of her outburst in Kinshasa during the trip, Jeff had better hope his article doesn’t reach her.
Staying with Monday’s Times, another article caught my attention; this one about a re-deployment of troops in the north of Iraq, with the intention of mollifying potential conflicts between the Kurdish majority and Arab elements, purportedly associated with al-Qaeda.
To those who are turning their gaze to the east toward Afghanistan and forgetting Iraq: not so fast! Iraq remains rife with ethnic tension, especially in the north where Kurdish separatists/nationalists, sensing weakness in the federal government, are mounting a serious political and military campaign of succession on behalf of their oil-rich region.
Allies of the United States since Desert Storm, and great beneficiaries of the Saddam’s ousting (Remember those claims that Saddam used chemical weapons? Guess who he used them on…), the Kurds sense that as America turns its gaze elsewhere, they may once again feel pressure to take their interests into their own hands.
But that will be nothing new for Kurds; they’ve been fighting to carve a sovereign homeland from what is now Iraq, Turkey, Iran, and Syria since those same places were called Persia, Assyria, and Media. Many inhabitants of the region (not all of whom are ethnic Kurds) feel they deserve their own nation, and the current political upheaval presents them with their best opportunity to get just that since the failed Treaty of Sévres almost a century ago.
Whether or not this leads to more armed combat in Iraq remains to be seen, and it will be up to the leaders of Kurdistan’s two primary political parties, the PKK and the PUK, to steer a course that best serves the interests of their constituents. Unfortunately, in this region of the world, bullets have done most of the talking as of late.