In the Jan/Feb issue of Foreign Policy, I have a broad-ranging piece on quasi-states — countries that haven’t yet achieved recognition (and in most cases never will).
UPDATE: French speakers can read the same piece at Slate.fr.
The south of Iraq is dominated by prickly and humorless factions — groups often indifferent to the perceptions of outsiders, and rarely willing to soften their image to soothe the nerves of the journalists who want to report on them. The north of Iraq presents the opposite problem: the Kurds are just so damned smooth, so endlessly accommodating, that a journalist has to keep his guard up to make sure he isn’t getting played.
Article in Jane’s Intelligence Review about what will happen when the referendum happens, or doesn’t, in Kirkuk.
The Atlantic (online)
When I visited the PKK training camps in northern Iraq last year, about half the terrorists I met were women, and most of the rest looked barely old enough to shave. This week, according to reports, after years of threatening to bomb the camps, the Turkish military started pounding the PKK’s camps near the Turkish border hard. The PKK have used those facilities to train for their guerrilla struggle in Turkey. The earnest ideologues I met in the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers Party, having long practiced for war, are now probably living through it, and facing the gravest dangers of their young lives.
The average age when I visited last year hovered somewhere between college sophomore or young grad student. Indeed the PKK members called their training facilities “the world’s greatest university,” offering an intense outdoor education, where everyone triple-majored in political philosophy, guerrilla tactics, and history. They bunked in communal dorms and tents, and they spent their days and nights in classes (principally on the works of their imprisoned leader, Abdullah Ocalan) and bull sessions peppered with buzzwords like “praxis,” “radical feminism,” and “cultural hegemony” that reflected the movement’s origins in European academic leftism. They trained every day in warfare, maintained their ramshackle campus, and prepared mentally and physically for the day when they would leave their studies in the remote heights of the Qandil Mountains and go kill Turkish soldiers.
Feature piece in Jane’s Intelligence Review. (Answer: probably, but with limited raids and air-strikes to soften up what few targets remain.)
Jane’s Foreign Report
The Atlantic, May 2007. With a map by Ryan Morris.
With time, Arab Iraq is looking less and less like a country, and Kurdish Iraq is looking more and more like one. Since 2003, Kurdish negotiators have quietly compelled Baghdad to acknowledge the Kurdish parliament, ministries, and 100,000-strong peshmerga army—in effect, to let the Kurds be Kurds first and Iraqis second, if at all.
The Atlantic, December 2006. With a map by Ryan Morris.
Iran’s ethnic minorities are not at all happy with their Persian-dominated central government—not, at least, if you go by the number of riots incited, state buildings bombed, and Iranian soldiers slain over the past two years. Since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election as president in 2005, Iranian Turks have rioted in the northwest, Baluchis have kidnapped and beheaded government officials in the southeast, Arabs have blown up oil pipelines in the southwest, and Kurdish guerrillas have sniped continually at Iranian soldiers in the mountains bordering Iraq and Turkey.