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The point is, the Kurds aren’t alone in having no friends but the mountains: Yezidis, Chaldean and Assyrian Christians, Turkmen, and Kakais have long settled in the same region as the Kurds.

If the Kurds can have a referendum for freedom from Iraq including in disputed zones, it’s reasonable to ask whether groups like the Christians and Yezidis who don’t want to live under Kurdish domination can stage their own referendum.

While Kurds winning a country would be a great story, it’s dishonest to cite Saddam Hussein’s massacres of the Kurds without noting that just eight years later Barzani invited Saddam’s elite forces into the Kurdish capital Erbil in order to capture and kill his Kurdish rivals.

For Barzani, power and money will always trump nationalism.

While, on one hand, the problem is the lack of contiguousness for many minority groups, on the other, the fact that the Kurds are staging their referendum in areas disputed with other groups sets a very dangerous precedent for the future.

Might Christian and Yezidi referenda be around the corner? Iraqi Kurdistan’s referendum doesn’t necessarily assure independence — presumably the Kurds will begin a negotiation process with Baghdad — but it is reasonable to consider what an independent Kurdistan might be.

Clashes between Iraqi government forces and Iraqi Kurds occurred both under the Iraqi monarchy (1921-1958) and the succeeding republic.

And, of course, under Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime, the Kurds suffered tremendously, culminating in the 1988 Anfal campaign in which Iraqi forces used chemical weapons against civilians in and around Halabja, killing several thousand.

The program crafted by the KRG included lots of meetings and cultural events, but only two hours of guided observation in Erbil.That runs afoul of all standards crafted by reputable organizations like the National Democratic Institute, International Republican Institute, and the Carter Center.When former Congressman Bob Wexler did something similar in Kazakhstan, he was pilloried. And when Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani writes, “We are committed to economic prosperity, to transparency and accountability,” he omits that he has consistently refused to release auditing reports that condemned the government’s opacity and corruption, or that his mother and former First Lady is widely reputed to be one of the biggest offenders. The Kurds often quip that they have “no friends but the mountains,” but as Bernard Lewis has pointed out, ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities have long sought shelter in mountainous terrain in order to protect their communities from the reach of strong governments.albeit on the condition that the largely Kurdish province remain under League mandate for 25 years, Kurdish would be the official language of the region, and that Kurds would administer the province.Successive Iraqi governments failed to fulfill their commitments toward the Kurds, however.