It seems that most Kurds in Northern Iraq would have preferred a McCain victory in the recent US Presidential election. Republicans, according to Aref Abdullah, president of the Kurdish parliament’s foreign affairs committee, “have taken a very clear line on Iraq.”
Conservative Kurds supported US Senator McCain (and have supported Bush) for being tough against Middle Eastern dictators and Arab countries in general.
The 2005 US-backed constitution greatly expanded their autonomy in Iraq. Kurds are fearful of potentially losing these gains under Obama who is seen as ambiguous towards the Kurdish population there. With Obama’s clearly stated preference for focusing on Afghanistan rather than Iraq, some in the region are fearful of outbreaks of violence which could lead to instability in Iraqi Kurdistan.
However, Adnan al-Mufti, speaker of the parliament, does not see a big difference in either candidate. He said of the two, “You don’t change foreign policy by changing the American president. The big change will be in (US) domestic policy.”
For Kurdish-Americans, the situation is the reverse. During a rally before the presidential debate in Nashville, home of the largest Kurdish population in the United States, Kurdish-Americans waved signs reading, “Kurds for Obama-Biden.”
Kurdish-Americans wanted to express their interests in this election and had reason to do so. Many of the countries in the Middle East that are dealt with directly by American leaders have significant Kurdish populations. Kurdish-Americans say that it is important that the next president listens to their concerns. But, of course, these Kurds live in the United States and are affected by the economic downturn as much as anyone else.
“As Kurdish-Americans, this election affects our community both here in the States and in Kurdistan. It is important for us to get our voice heard regardless of which candidate we support,” said a young Kurdish community-member, Rebaz Qaradaghi.
Vice-President Elect Joe Biden helped pass a bill through the Senate last year that would introduce a US foreign policy advocating a decentralized Iraq with more power allocated to the federal states. While this mirrors to some extent what the Iraqis themselves are proposing, McCain strongly criticized Biden’s position. McCain referred to Biden’s proposal as “this cockamamie idea about dividing Iraq into three countries.” In actuality the plan was to maintain Iraq’s unity but create more of a federalist entity. While Biden’s plan and the Iraqi constitution differ perhaps in their understanding of federalism, Kurds in the north of Iraq are warming to the idea of a new Obama-Biden administration. Kurds in Nashville already have. (Belê em dikarin!)
Kurdish-Americans show their support for Obama ahead of presidential debate in Nashville, Kurdishaspect.com, 02 October 2008.
Kurds prefer McCain but don’t fear Obama, Kuwait Times, 02 November 2008