Letter: Iraqi Kurds: victims of the West's self-interested policy?

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The Independent Online
Sir: On 11 April 1990, at a time of considerable danger to the Kurds of northern Iraq, you carried a letter from members of this committee drawing attention to the provisions of Article 4 of the Geneva Conventions. This article relates to the rights of identifiable groups of people caught up in a conflict 'not

of an international nature' (ie, a civil war).

The allies' 'safe havens' policy for the Iraqi Kurds rescued millions of men, women and children from persecution by Saddam Hussein's regime. Just over 12 months ago, the Iraqi Kurds held public elections for a leader and members of a parliament for their region. The results showed virtually a dead heat between the two major parties and they have administered the region on a consensual basis, even including members of minority parties in the government.

The Kurds' economy remains desperately weak and communication is difficult given the UN embargo, the Baghdad regime's blockade and the fact that key Kurdish cities, such as Mosul and Kirkuk, remain in Saddam Hussein's hands. Nevertheless, the stability and peace that has largely reigned in Iraqi Kurdistan has been a remarkable success story, primarily for the Kurds themselves but also for the allies who have, in effect, guaranteed the Kurds' survival through all these months.

Saddam Hussein has now embarked on a policy of testing the allies' nerve by infiltrating troops into the region and moving the stand-off line between the forces further into Kurdish areas, destroying crops and causing local farmers to flee. He has also further undermined the Kurds' economy by demonetarising the Iraqi 25 dinar note, which has been held in substantial numbers by Kurdish traders. Not being a sovereign country, the Kurds have hitherto had no option but to use Iraqi currency.

In the light of all this, it seems astonishing that Western personnel are being withdrawn and that there is talk of ending the air cover. With the Western powers seriously embarrassed by their inability to protect people in other conflicts, it is bizarre to imperil such an obvious - and rare - success.

John Major was seen by the Kurds, and the public generally, as the initiator of the successful defence of the Iraqi Kurds. It is surely inconceivable that he would jeopardise his reputation. Instead of another blood bath to add to the Balkans, far better to improve security in the region by overflying the relatively small area between the 32nd and 36th parallels, thus ending an obvious anomaly. The legal basis for action is clear. We hope that the British government will again take the lead.

Yours faithfully,

MICHAEL MEADOWCROFT

RICHARD RAMPTON

Promotion of International

Settlements

London, W9

29 June

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