Step 3: Citizens form competing governments. From an NPR story this morning:
Saddam Hussein’s trial in Baghdad was disrupted when a witness wore a lapel pin with the image of the Kurdish, rather than the Iraqi flag. The flag issue has taken on greater importance in Iraq since Sept. 1. That’s when Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraq’s Kurdish region, banned the flying of the Iraqi flag at government buildings.
No transcript yet, so listen to the whole thing. It is perfectly understandable that the Kurds would resist hanging a flag which features Saddam’s personal handwriting. However the flag issue represents something much more significant. Since 1991 Iraqi Kurdistan has developed into practically its own country with a shadow government and passport checks at the border with Iraq proper. The Kurds plan a referendum next year in Kirkuk over its allegiance to Iraq or Kurdistan, but have promised to begin oil exploration beforehand as if the referendum has already been decided. These displays of separatism will become increasingly intolerable for the Iraqi central government. Even more than the Shiite-Sunni problem Kurdish resitveness may spark the first major act in the potential breakup of the Iraqi state.
However, whatever problems Kurdistan has right now the mess in the Sunni-Shiite regions, and particularly in
Sarajevo Baghdad, make Kurdistan look like a Swedish day spa. Steve Benen summarizes the latest. If Iraq has any good news at the moment it is keeping a very low profile.