One of the world’s leading scholars about the Kurds, Tennessee Tech University political science professor Michael Gunter, has strong opinions about drawing down of U.S. troops in Iraq.
Gunter recently was a guest on “The Takeaway,” a joint production of Public Radio International and WNYC, New York City's flagship public radio station. He provided his views on what we might expect in Kurdistan after the drawdown of U.S. forces and beyond.
Q: What’s going to happen when U.S. troops leave Iraq?
Gunter: There’s a real chance the Kurds and the Arabs will fight over borders and oil resources. There’s a “trigger line” and there have been very close calls fighting between the two that the U.S. Army separated. But it could fall apart very quickly.
Q: What type of government will emerge in Iraq?
Gunter: It’s been five months since the election and Iraq doesn’t even have a government. It’s shocking, but eventually they will, but what type will it be? The Kurds support a federal government but Arabs want to redraw the constitution.
Q: If the U.S. troops pull out, will Iraq hold together or divide into separate groups?
Gunter: First, I’m not so sure we are going to leave. We are keeping 50,000 troops there.
Q: In whose interest is Iraq’s territorial integrity?
Gunter: It’s largely in the supposed interest of the United States to maintain stability. If Iraq divided up, it could possibly become unstable and influence Iran and Turkey to enter because those two countries are dead set against any type of Kurdish independent state that might serve as a magnet to Kurds living in Turkey or Iran.
Q: How effective is the focus on Iraq?
Gunter: We’ve lost sight of Afghanistan, which is more important to our national interests. What are we trying to do there? Originally, it was to hunt Al-Qaeda. But now we could do it much better and with less money without being in Afghanistan. We are trying to establish a democracy for a country that doesn’t want it, doesn’t know what to do with it. We cannot continue to be the world police, especially not without allies. And allies are currently reluctant to play this role.
One of the world’s leading scholars about the Kurdish question, Gunter has published seven critically praised scholarly books, including The Kurds Ascending: The Evolving Solution to the Kurdish Problem and numerous scholarly articles in such leading periodicals as Middle East Journal, Middle East Quarterly, Middle East Policy, Current History, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, and Orient.
He serves on an international board promoting Turkey’s inclusion into the EU, and is the only American to hold such a prestigious distinction with the organization.